November 28, 2009

Happy Saturday after Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving week. We went over to one of our friends here in Norman and ate very well while enjoying lively and thoughtful conversations--ranging from the OU Football program to the nature of American power since the 1950s. Not bad.

One thing that came up in our pre-turkey conversations was the changing role that Americans have decided for government investment. I am starting to see the world we live in as "Reagan's world" or the world of tax "cuts" and deregulation. I would say the world of small government, but that is increasingly clearly as mythical as some kind of pure communist state. Just doesn't happen. Not where you have a complex and large economy. My conservative friends cling to the myth of the small government, just as they cling to the myth that cutting taxes on the rich magically helps out the poor.

Paul Krugman may have not originated this term, but he refers to those tax "cuts" as actually being tax "shifts," meaning of course that the burden of that tax simply went elsewhere. Perhaps to a state or local tax. Perhaps to property taxes, or more likely into regressive fees and licenses. Or, in the case of universities, in increased tuition and fees.

Take my university. My chair told me that in 1980, state appropriations made up 40% of our operating budget. That is now down to 18%. Meanwhile, our dedication to science has also decreased and my scientist friends tell me that getting those national science grants is harder than it was. Little truth of those universities, is that those lucrative grants then get spilled over into the less expensive departments where research is an issue of travel and photo-copies, rather than labs and equipment.

Where do universities make up that shortfall? They do it, of course, in a couple of ways--they raise tuition and fees. Fees, after all, are the hidden costs for most students. Second, universities increase their fund raising to wealthy donors and alums. They promise to name buildings after prominent families instead of prominent scholars--leaving our campus with a journalism school named after the family that has produced some of the worst journalism in the country.

And there is the rub. That system works ok when the economy is booming. Wealthy people have a lot of extra money, foundations and endowments are growing, and tuition increases are both smaller and less noticeable. But when the economy turns down, a rather large part of the University's budget goes down with it, making a state "funded" university as prone to the boom and bust cycle as any farmer--actually more so.

I really wonder if my conservative friends will find that their tax cut from Republican politicians comes even close to covering the cost of their increased tuition.

Yglesias points to another example of this tax shift. When the economy goes down, state and local budgets are hurt at a greater level than the large fed. Of course, since we have cut taxes and reduced our dedication to supporting state services, those services often end up being cut at the time when people need them most. And in this case, more and more kids are relying on their local school lunchroom for their food source.

Think about that the next time you hear a Republican bleating about cutting taxes. Those taxes don't just go to programs you don't like. They go to feed people who are hungry. They go to help unemployed attend college to retrain. They go to help research new technologies that fuel the economy.

November 20, 2009

Ah Republicans: If the past is a problem, just change it.

Think Progress Foxx: Republicans ‘Passed Civil Rights Bills Back In The 60s Without Very Much Help’ From Democrats

I would just dismiss this as a very uninformed Rep, but I have heard this from numerous conservatives. Most, I would add, as this post notes, miss the distinction between Northern Republicans and Southern ones, and assume somehow that the conservative Republicans of today are the same as those Northern liberal Republicans.

But make no mistake, the current GOP is the GOP who opposed every measure for social and environmental justice. To say otherwise is simply a denial of history.

back to politics

Streak had another good night and once again awoke once in the middle of the night but then went back to sleep. We are experimenting with cutting back on the sedatives for a bit, and see if that actually helps him. He still seems to be afraid of napping in the morning, and here I am not much help, because I am afraid of him napping. Well, not the napping, but the waking.

Anyway. As SOF says: we are in the bonus round and will enjoy the bonus time as long as it lasts.

Now, back to the politics of the moment:

Firedoglake continues this long discussion about the conservative nostalgia for a non-existent past. And if you haven't seen the Jon Stewart interview with Lou Dobbs, then you might want to check it out. Speaking of non-existent, that is. I used to think that Dobbs was intelligent. I am now realizing that I fall into the same trap that everyone else does with him and Dick Cheney. Their appearance, voice, etc., communicates gravitas and intelligence. Their words, however, do not.

Dobbs is convinced that Obama is no different than Bush in that he is taking the country out of the middle. When Jon tries to get him to explain why the crazies didn't somehow accuse Bush of tyranny or taking their country away, Dobbs dissembles and distracts. I don't think he knows how to answer, because he is so far to the right (while still believing he is in the middle) that he can't see it.

But amazingly, he asserts that Obama is trying to hijack the country with healthcare, and that it is a subversion of democracy, and that is why the teabaggers are so angry. Jon does a pretty good job of noting that people voted last fall, but doesn't make it explicit that Obama won a hell of a lot of votes promising to bring healthcare reform. How Dobbs can then see healthcare reform as some perversion of democracy is beyond me.

I have also been enjoying Sullivan and others post on Sarah Palin's "book." Conservatives (well, the grownup kind) are also pretty dismissive. Rod Dreher's blog is not impressed and especially with her muddled form of populism where Big Business is a problem, but then also says that those who disagree with Big Business are echoing Marx.
It is fascinating, though, to read how she discovered through her work how big business gets cozy with big government, to the detriment of the common good. But she cannot let that knowledge get in the way of reciting her 1980s GOP catechism about the market. Weirdly, she goes on and on about how capitalism must be allowed to work, and let the creative-destruction chips fall where they may ... and yet later will talk about how wrong it is that Alaska's natural gas industry remains undeveloped because it's been cheaper for Big Oil to explore and develop natural gas sources in places where the labor and infrastructure is cheaper. Sarah, I hate to break it to you, but you can't complain about government meddling in the economy as a Bad Thing, but then turn around and complain about Big Business doing what Big Business does, which is to maximize profits by cutting labor costs.
And concludes:
But she is so far from being capable of being president of the United States it's not even funny. I know, I know, this isn't news, but you'd think that if there was anything more to her in terms of intellectual seriousness and judgment than we saw last fall, she'd have brought it out in a memoir she had most of a year to write with the help of a professional writer. But there's no there there. I'm not saying she's a bad person -- I don't believe she's a bad person at all -- but I am saying she's not a credible national political leader.
Putting that mildly, I think.

November 19, 2009

A better night and morning for Streak

As I think I noted the other day, each day has been a bit of a roller coaster. Yesterday was pretty frustrating and long. But last night, for whatever reason, Streak slept a little better. He awoke around 3 with a yelp (similar to his other yowls, but much shorter) and then we heard him turn around a few times and lay back down in his crate. He then slept till 6 and was awake in a normal way and not yelling.

This morning, I decided that one of the things missing for him of late has been the daily napping that he used to do regularly. In fact, you don't realize how much dogs sleep normally during the day until one of them doesn't sleep at all. I crated him around 10 this morning and went off to do work at Starbucks (and catch up with some friends), and when I returned at 2, he was up and alert and ready to go outside. He even rolled in the grass--an old behavior I hadn't seen in a while.

I have no idea what to think at this point. I really don't. This is obviously better than the previous few days, but I am still very nervous about what is causing these episodes. The crate, however, has allowed us some freedom and him some safety and security, and that is a good thing. As SOF has said many times, we are just going to take this day by day, and appreciate the good days and good moments.

November 18, 2009

Where we are today

I posted this on Facebook as well, but here is the latest on Streak.

Yesterday was one of those days where we both went from deeply pessimistic to optimistic and back again. Streak's episodes continue, and mostly when he is coming out of sleep. I spoke with my vet friend last night and he wonders if this might not be some kind of old-age dementia where Streak is just not sure where he is when he awakes. Once he calms down, he moves well, eats, etc., though he does follow us around a lot, and he seems to not want to sleep. But last night, I took him on a cold walk and it was one of the better walks in recent memory. If you saw us last night, you would not know anything was wrong.

But something clearly is, and this morning I think we are not sure things will improve. Perhaps they will, and we all want that, but I am not hopeful for that this morning. I do know that we will take advantage of the good times we have with him and manage the bad. We bought a crate for him to sleep in a secured space, and that has already worked wonders.

FWIW, I am a bit of a basket case this morning. I seem to fluctuate between extreme grief and philosophical distance. Some of the things that have been constants are no longer constant--and it is amazing how quickly that can change. If you see me or speak with me, be warned that I might break down. I am well aware that there are bigger tragedies in the world than losing a 13 year old dog. But, as all of you know, when you spend every day with a being, even when that being doesn't talk back to you, you tend to get used to their presence. We have been talking about how much Streak has meant to us. He has pushed us out of our little nest, made us go on long walks, made us meet new people and new dogs, and has allowed us to enjoy our community that much more. For some he is "just a dog." For us, he is certainly a dog, but certainly not "just" a dog. He has been an amazing friend and companion for over 12 years.

Anyway, we will continue to enjoy Streak until it isn't good for him. And we appreciate all the nice thoughts and emails.

November 17, 2009

Good thoughts for our dog Streak

I know I have not blogged much lately. Part of it has been the intense schedule with 5 classes. Part, at least since last Saturday, has been the stress of Streak's illness. We still don't know what is going on, but he has had these seizures when coming out of a deep sleep. They are frightening to all of us (though we are slowly getting used to them) because he yowls terribly and is obviously in some discomfort. They don't last terribly long, and when he is back to normal, he really seems back to normal. The vet is treating a bladder infection as well, and we think that may be causing him some of his discomfort.

Streak is now 13, and has been with us for a long time. I am hopeful that he will be with us for more time. His latest seizures seem to be less severe and that gives me some hope. But the continuation is troubling as are some of the potential causes. Today, I am just worn out and feeling a little out of control. I need to get myself together for a couple of long days of teaching and am badly behind in my grading.

I appreciate your good thoughts.

November 9, 2009

My Aunt

My aunt passed away yesterday morning. Her passing was not completely unexpected, yet....

Today I am thinking of my mother and her brother for their lost sister. I am thinking of my cousins, and my uncle who lost their mother and wife.

She was a beautiful person and a beautiful soul, and was a gourmet and lover of horses, cats and dogs. But she though was also beset by an awful lot of inner demons. Over the years, those personal demons robbed her of her physical beauty and caused untold problems throughout her life and relationships, but her inner beauty remained. Her battles took a toll on all of us, but more so the closer to the inner circle. I remember her as funny and engaging, and always interested in my life--especially how my pets were doing. :)

I say that her passing was not unexpected. Her health had not been good for years. Yet, after so many phone calls and emails warning us that "she may not make it through the night" her passing yesterday morning surprised me. Those bonus years, I think, were good for her and many of her relationships, however, and I am so glad for them.

I am sad she is gone, and I will miss her.

November 4, 2009

The exponential problem of paranoia

Anglican sent me an email sent to him by a right wing friend. In that email, the person admitted that some of the email might be extreme, but that was what people on the right were feeling about Obama. The actual substance of the email was frighteningly paranoid and rambling. It had me thinking of the nature of this kind of thinking, and it is something that both sides have to watch, but it seems to be embraced on the far right.

It goes something like this. You analyze something real and come to that part where you have to make a judgement about something that is, perhaps questionable. At this point, you choose to accept the most extreme position, which in that particular issue, is probably rather benign. But that becomes the base line for your next decision, and so on, and so on.

So you look at Obama and believe that he might not be Muslim, but that his association with Wright makes him a radical or even non-Christian. Moving forward from that point, you now assume him to be non-Christian and therefore a liar. Since he is a liar, you don't believe any of the things he says that are reasonable (which are most, frankly). And since he is not a christian, and a liar, you believe those who say he is some kind of radical Marxist. And as a Marxist, then you approach healthcare and the economy with the assumption, not that he is trying to make things better, but that he is trying to make things worse as a part of his plan to force the country into Marxism. You take partial bits of evidence, and read them in the most extreme way: this email said that Obama had already "taken over two major industries." I think Ford would be surprised to hear that they are now part of a nationalized industry, as would those banks who are out from under TARP. But facts, at this point, are meaningless.

By that time, Obama has become a monster and is a threat. I think that is pretty much the path I have seen from the far right and Christian right. To be fair, that same process occurred on the left under Bush. I will say that in my defense, I hesitated at each of those steps to assume the most radical option. Part of that was my own lack of clarity. Was Bush stupid or malevolent? Hard to believe he was involved in some plot to allow 9-11 to happen if he is so incompetent that he can't quite even enact any of his policies. I would also argue that my final disgust with the man came with the evidence of torture and wiretapping--things that were documented and factual.

Anyway. Thoughts?

November 2, 2009

I really hate Grover Norquist

Taxing Matters | The American Prospect.

And here is a related random, and unanswerable question. How much of our economy has government investment at its base? How many of our consumer goods go back to some government subsidized research?