Panettone, Plants, and Politics: Enough Alliteration for a Drizzly Day

It’s one of those luxurious Sunday mornings, luxurious but lazy.  Outside it’s a grey, drizzly day, but because tomorrow is a holiday, I’m not feeling the pressure to get things done for the work week ahead.

Two airy loaves of panettone, ready to go into the oven.

Even so, I’ve gotten a lot accomplished already.  I’ve put together panettone dough and have the oven getting heated up so that by the time I get this written, I can go down to the kitchen and put the dough in the pans.  I haven’t made panettone since about this time last year, but I know no one else who makes it, and I’ve made enough adjustments to the recipe (check out my recipe) I originally got from the Joy of Cooking to make this one mine.  I think there will be enough for two loaves:  a big one that I can take to work to share in the break room and a smaller one that I can grab a slice for breakfast on the road or make super-delish French toast next weekend.

Unharmed by the low temperatures earlier in the week, this tomato plant seems to be enjoying the Sunday drizzle.

I’ve also brought in all the sheets that I used to cover potted plants and my tomatoes in the garden.  Though the thermometer read 25° F. one morning when I got up with Annie, most of my plants came out unscathed.  Apparently, the low temperatures didn’t stay long enough to do much damage.  The tomatoes that I set in in

Tiny, new lettuce sprouts peeking through the cool January soil.

January (Can you deal with two prepositions in a row?) seem none the worse for wear, and by the looks, there may be a tomato or two for the plate in a few weeks.  I didn’t cover the pepper plants, so they look somewhat peaked from the cold, but I want to replace them with different varieties in the spring anyway.

It was also a good morning to grind the beans for fresh coffee.  I don’t drink coffee on an every-day basis, but I like a cup from Starbuck’s or freshly brewed at home for a treat.  I’m on my second cup now, and I definitely feel the caffeine.  I doubt whether I’ll take a Sunday afternoon nap today.  In addition to the coffee, I made a nice two-egg omelette filled with fresh pico de gallo–store-bought, but still full of fresh veggie taste.  (I noticed that when I was back home for the holidays that I am not the only one in my family that says “store-boughten” as opposed to the grammatically-correct “store-bought”.  I love the sound of colloquial English and think that “computer-ese” with all its LOLs and other abbreviation is making language much less expressive and more robotic.)

On a different note this pre-MLK Day Sunday, I can’t help but mention (I have to say “mention” or someone may think I’m being vitriolic) how these supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans who got elected in November are really having problems and don’t really seem all that fiscally conservative, let alone, fiscally adept. 

Here in Texas, Rick Perry, who has been governor for 10 years and campaigned on his financial expertise at balancing the budget before last November’s elections, now finds himself facing a $27 billion shortfall for the state.  In my old home state of Kansas, another supposedly fiscal conservative, newly-elected Governor Sam Brownback’s budget is bigger than that of the current one, which was created while Democrats were in the governor’s seat.  According to the Wichita newspaper,  Brownback “proposal increased spending from the state general fund to $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, from $5.7 billion in the current budget.”   In Perry’s case, he has been in the governor’s office since 2000, coming into the position after George W. Bush was elected President.  The problems in the state budget can’t be blamed on Democrats because the legislature is also heavily Republican.  In Kansas, while the previous governor was a Democrat, the legislature has been controlled by Republicans for decades, perhaps since the founding of the state in 1861 (I’ll have to check my history books.)  In both states, the legislatures must approve the states’ budgets. 

Whether Republican or Democrat, these days we really need some people in office in our state that have some business sense, and are fiscally adept.  Just saying you are fiscally conservative doesn’t really make a state more fiscally sound.

Mmmm.  Now the smell of baking panettone is wafting up my stairway.  I’d better go check on those goodies!

And here they are! Don't they look tempting right out of the oven?

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Finally Someone Has the Cojones To Stand Up to the Crazies at Town Hall Health Care Meetings

This topic hasn’t been one I’ve written much about before, but when I see them on TV, I just wonder what country I am living in. How did so many get so crazy and so uninformed that they will say anything, especially the completely disrespectful slogans and images about the President.

Even though many Americans disagreed with Bush’s policies and, in particular, going to war in Iraq and its continuance thereafter, GWB was never treated in such a disrespectful way. I’ve heard conservative pundits and blog writers say the liberals did that to Bush, but I’ve been paying close attention to politics for quite awhile, and if someone can give evidence that Bush was treated in such a way, I’d like to see it.

These people have been angry and now egged on by conservative lobbyist groups, as well as Republicans in Congress, have become more emboldened, even carrying guns to these meetings and protests.

They keep crying out all of the nasty Nazi stuff, but what I see is that they are acting more like some in Germany did pre-World War II, spewing out hatred and vile slogans.

What gets me is how did so many people in this country get to be so dumb and uninformed? If they would just read a bit, they would know that the claims they are making about what the health care bill would do (i.e. promoting euthanasia) are completely beyond the pale.

And when they do go to these town hall meetings, they don’t seem to want really ask questions to find out what the program would do, they just want to be vile and nasty. Some Republicans and other conservatives are praising this, saying that these people are exercising their right to free speech.

It looks to me, though, that these people have been taking lessons from Fred Phelps and his family in being mean and nasty.

I think there are very few people in this country who can look at all this nastiness, and say, “Oh, they make me proud to be an American.”

Proud, no–embarrassed for my country is more like it.

Finally, though, Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts did and said what others should have been doing all along, and many of us have wondered why it hasn’t been done before.

All I can say is, “You tell ’em, Barney!’

Watch it:

We Should Be Fearing the Terrorists Among Us, They Are Just as Bad as the Ones Who Don’t Speak our Language

You Kill2the owner of a legally operating business, just because you don’t like what that business does and you want to close down that business and other similar businesses. In my books, that is terrorism. That’s exactly what happened in the case of murderer Scott Roeder, who killed Dr. George Tiller. This is pure domestic terrorism. Worse yet, in Kansas, this is not a capital murder case, so the taxpayers are going to have to pay for the keep of this diabolical killer for the rest of his life. Hopefully, he will croak soon. And hopefully so will some of the wacko commenters to the article about it.

And now today, we have another killing, this time in Washington, D.C. by another right-wing extremist–the murder of an innocent guard at the Holocaust Museum.

When will it stop? Who is next? We know there will be a next because people like Rush Limbaugh, Shawn Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Bill O’Reilly want to keep their pots of hatred bubbling, inflaming these crazies into the “Chicken Little Syndrome”, making them think that the sky is going to fall just because the political pendulum in this country is moving in the other direction.

Some people want to blame extremists on both sides, but think about it. During the last administration, even when Bush’s popularity was at an all time low, would anyone have ever conceived of an anti-gun proponent going into an NRA meeting and shooting someone? After the Proposition 8 vote against same-sex marriage when so many people were upset at the Mormons for loading the coffers of the Prop. 8 measure, would anyone have ever thought that some gay activist would shoot the leader of that Utah-based sect? And even though many people on the left truly hated Bush’s war in Iraq and what it had done to the country, would anyone have imagined some left-leaning extremist trying to assassinate him?

I doubt that even those vile news commentators who spill out so much hatred against our President and his administration today would have expected that “lefties” would try to murder any of those they disagreed with.

But with the killings of Dr. Tiller and now the museum guard, Stephen Johns, these TV and radio inciters have to be held accountable. They are causing violence and death in this country, and it must stop! If you are one of their listeners, you must stop. Because if you are listening to them and keeping them on the air, and in your own way, you support these inciters, and , thus, support murder. Think about it, and just stop.

California Court’s Decision on Proposition 8 May Be Disappointing, But 18,000 Legally Married Same-Sex Couples “Ain’t Nothin’ To Sneeze At”

same-sex coupleThe California Supreme Court sent out a mixed message today when it upheld last November’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages, but, on the other hand, did not make make the proposition retroactive, which means that the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place previous to the election are still legal.

While those opposed to gay marriage may be celebrating today, they must realize that the sand in the top of their hourglass continues to drain into the bottom: eighteen thousand gay marriages remain intact despite the millions they spent. The court’s ruling only says that the proposition made a legal change in California’s Constitution; the court did not say gay marriage was wrong; in fact, just the opposite is the case in allowing the 18,000 marriages to stand.

The effect of allowing the 18,000 marriages to remain legal will be much more enduring than the upholding of Proposition 8.

Except for under the G. W. Bush administration (with various interferences to privacy and to the writ of habeas corpus), it’s hard to think of civil liberties, once granted, that have been retracted. How willing would African-Americans be to go back into slavery? Would women say, “Oh, we’re just so happy with the way men run the government that we’ll just stay at home on election day”? Can you imagine Jon and Kate or any other inter-racial couples thinking how “unnatural” it would be to get married and have kids? When it comes to civil liberties, it’s very hard to get the toothpaste back in the tube once it’s been squeezed out.

And gay people are not going back either.

Because of these 18,000 marriages, gay marriage will become legal for other couples, one way or the other. It may be through the court itself or through the ballot box. It may come about through more people realizing that equality counts for all, not for just some. It may come about when a financially-strapped state understands the boon of same-sex marriages.

Whatever way–things will change. Look at the difference between now and barely a year ago. Until May 15th of last year when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, only the state of Massachusetts allowed it. In spite of Proposition 8, 18,000 couples were legally married in California, and . . . same-sex marriage became law in Connecticut (since October 10, 2008), Iowa (since April 27, 2009), Vermont (starting September 1, 2009) and Maine (starting September 14, 2009). And it appears some of the “New” states–New York, New Jersey, and New Hampshire will approve gay marriage soon.

So for all the NOMers and other nay-sayers out there, imagine a “storm” of fluffy clouds, spring flowers, and the most delicious wedding cakes out there, because if you think you’ve won something today in California, most gay people see a silver lining that’s going to be found in more and more tuxes and wedding gowns all across the land.

In just looking at the Declaration of Independence, I see again that it says that one of the unalienable rights is “the pursuit of happiness”. Nothing in there that I can read says that working to make other people’s lives unhappy is an unalienable right. But, thank goodness, people like Maggie Gallagher, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell are a dying breed. Oh, sorry, Falwell’s dead already, isn’t he?

The “Un-called” For Telemarketer (Part III)–The Human Rights Campaign Wants My Gay Money

The phone rang around lunchtime today. A very polite man asked for me by name, and in that first utterance, I knew it was someone wanting money in some form or another. Because he actually seemed like he had “a little snap” (most telemarketers that call here probably would have a hard time at McDonald’s), I let him proceed longer than I usually do before hanging up the receiver.

hrc-logoThis time it was the Human Rights Campaign wanting me to re-up my membership; actually, re-upping isn’t quite what I would have been doing, if, indeed, I had responded positively to the call. I joined HRC for one year in 2004, if I remember correctly, and since then they call me and send me requests for money in the mail several times a year. They’ve probably spent more in trying to get more money out of me than the initial amount I gave them in the first place.

Human Rights Campaign is actually a euphemism. In reality, it’s a Washington, D.C.-based gay lobby. (They must feel it would make people uncomfortable if it were called the Gay Rights Campaign.) When I first joined, I was hoping that there was actually some kind of national gay rights organization that worked at the national, state, and local levels, some kind of group that I might be able to take part in. But HRC is not that kind of organization. They do have a sort of local connection in large cities like Houston, but these are, as far as I can tell, made up of some “upper-crusty” gays, who put on a Black Tie Dinner every year, another way of getting big bucks to funnel into the Washington lobbying group. This means HRC is just like any other lobby that tries to get congresspeople interested in its cause by putting dollars into their coffers.

When Bush was President, HRC’s message was that they needed money to counter the Conservative Right. It doesn’t seem to me that much was gained or lost as far as gay rights go during the Bush administration–with or without HRC. Now in their most recent mailout asking for money (yes, a phone call and an HRC letter all within a week), they say they want money because with a more gay-friendly President in office, HRC can do even more. It’s very difficult to see that whatever HRC does will have much influence.

If HRC and the money donors sends it were so effective, more should have been accomplished by now. And where’s the oversight? Where are all the donations that gay people make going?

One thing is for sure: a heck of a lot of it is going to Executive Director Joe Solomonese’s pocket. According to a recent article in the Washington Blade, in 2008 Solomonese received $338,400. For that, a lot more should be happening that just a few CNN and MSNBC mini-debates with conservatives.

A more effective national gay political organization would be one in which people can participate at all levels, and not one that just wants money, and more money. HRC could take the initiative and become that organization, but at the moment, all that it seems to want to be is a money funneler.

VW Bug–College Life: The Selective Service and Student Teaching (Chapter Five in the VW Bug Chronicles)

draft-lotterySometime during my junior year in college (69-70), many of us guys sat nervously around the radio, waiting to hear what our draft number would be. I’m not sure how the Selective Service had determined the order of eligible young men to be called up for military service prior to that time, but at the end of the 60s, a lottery system was put into place, and the order a date of birth was pulled from the jar determined how high or how low a guy’s chances of being called up would be. Therefore, if you had a low lottery number (under a 100 at least), your chances of being drafted were very high. If your number was larger, say in the 300s, your chances of not being drafted would much better.

There were other factors involved also. Each county had its own draft board, which received a quota for the number of young men that it was required to send (probably based on the population of the county), and a guy’s lottery number within that smaller county pool might also determine whether he would be called up or not.

I don’t recall anyone in my group of friends or even others on the Fort Hays campus that were very “gung ho” about going, but if someone had a low number, he was surely resigned to his fate of either being drafted or enlisting. There were a few anti-war protests and counter-protests on campus; however, in reality, there were more students who chose to be onlookers, rather than participants for either side.

By this time, the Vietnam War had been going on with U.S. involvement for more than seven years. Everyone had seen a lot of the fighting and other images of the war on TV. (Here we are forty-some years later, and what we can see is that there was a lot more openness in what was shown of the war then, than is shown of what is happening in Iraq in this war. Every day the names of the soldiers who were killed and where they were from could be found in the newspaper. (These days unless it’s some local soldier who has been killed, the rest of the country has no idea whose life has been sacrificed. And everyone–both those for and those against the war– knew there was a sacrifice in fighting a war–something the Bush government has always seemed to want to hide from the American people.) Many of us had brothers who had already gone off to the military, and, very likely, to Vietnam. If not brothers, at least, we new of other relatives or local guys who had been called to service.

So, for a those of us guys there at Fort Hays and other schools across the country, getting our draft number in those days was part of college life, and, of course, the lower the number, the more heavily it probably weighed on one’s mind.

Even before the lottery, the draft system was something involved in our lives, because if you were in college, you had to get a deferment from your local draft board. When you turned 18, you had to sign up with the draft board, and if you weren’t in school, you were eligible to be called up. That meant college guys had to have a deferment, in order not to be drafted, but it also meant that you had to maintain passing grades and be taking a full college course load. The deferment was only temporary, though. When you graduated, you could be called up right away. Consequently, while you were still in school, what was going to happen to you afterwards, especially in respect to going into the military, was never far from your mind.

My number was 156. It was neither a good number nor a bad number. It wasn’t low enough so that the certainty of being taken was there. On the other hand, it wasn’t high enough that it was likely that I would not go. It was a middle number–a sort of “in limbo” number.

College life went on, though, that year or so, with the usual studies, parties, and vacations back home. Mixed into that life, some guys looked for alternative means, if not to avoid the draft altogether, but, perhaps to delay the inevitable. Some decided that getting married and starting a family–earlier than they might otherwise have come to that decision–was their way to hold off Uncle Sam (Think Dick Cheney). A few went into grad school in order to get an extended deferment (Think Dick Cheney again). There were others who chose to commit to the National Guard or the Reserves (Think GWB) because in those days very few guard or reserve units were called to go to Vietnam. However, in those days with so many wanting to go that route, these more local units had limit restrictions on the number of men they could take; consequently, in a lot of cases, a guy had to “know somebody” in order to get into the guards or reserves. (One thing that really irks me about the Iraq War: If the country really had been ready AND WILLING to go to war there, they should have re-instated the draft in order to have the manpower to complete that task successfully and fully maintain the military’s strength all around the world.)

At some point during my senior year, I got orders to go for my pre-induction physical. I had to go to Kansas City by bus, stay overnight, and was given my physical, lined up with hundreds of other guys, at the induction center which was in KC back then. The Selective Service made you take this physical early so that there would be no doubt about your health situation before they actually drafted you.

My final semester of college was my teaching block semester, so I spent part of it doing my student teaching at Great Bend High School. For the six weeks that I did my student teaching, I rented a basement apartment in a little old bungalow near the high school. Some people drove the approximately 50-mile drive each way from Hays every day, but I had opted not to do that. However, I drove my purple VW back to Hays to spend time catching up with my roommates every weekend, and even sometimes during the week when I had meetings or a big basketball game to watch on campus.

I had two cooperating teachers (the real teachers of the class), and for some reason, the one I worked with most, felt threatened by me. I don’t really know why. He was pretty well known among the teaching circles in that subject and had won different honors, and I was just this kid, having just turned 21, but looked even younger. Maybe that was the problem: that I wasn’t much older than most of my students. I learned a lot during that time, for the practical experience was real, and what we had studied in our “block” courses hadn’t really prepared us for the reality of the classroom. On my last day of student teaching, one class of my seniors gave me a going away present–a mini keg of beer–in class nonetheless. My cooperating teacher was just about beside himself–irate is probably more like it, but he didn’t do anything, maybe because it had happened on his watch. Or perhaps in those days, it wasn’t such a big deal. I can’t imagine anything like that happening these days, but, heck, these days they bring guns to school.

I was a bit worried about how that might affect my student teaching report because I still had to return to campus for a few weeks to finish up my courses and get my final student teaching evaluation. Despite my nervousness, the evaluations from my cooperating teachers were good, and there was no mention of the mini keg.

Who Are These Republicans Nowadays Anyway?

After all the viciousness that the McCain and Palin have been putting forth in their campaign speeches, finally, but finally, today McCain had to admit that “Obama is a decent man”, only to be booed by many of his supporters for saying that. However, what I liked about it was there was sincerity in his voice and on his face when he answered the questions about Obama, something we haven’t seen from him in the debates. What is unfortunate is that the Republican campaign has spent so much time and energy before today revving their voters into almost a rampant frenzy. Where do they get all their ideas anyway?

My mom and dad were Republicans. I grew up thinking the Republicans were the good guys and the Democrats were the bad guys. My mom didn’t like JFK, mostly I think because he was Catholic. I remember her telling me about when she was a girl there was a KKK in or around Dorrance. Back in the 1920s, the KKK was a big political force in the U.S., but of course, in places like Kansas in those days, there were very few black people, so there had to be someone to be the scapegoat–someone to blame–someone to discriminate against–so it was the Catholics. I don’t know if my grandparents liked Catholics or not, but my mom sure didn’t.

She also said that only the Democrats got the country into wars. I guess that was because FDR was President when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. was forced into WWII. She always loved George W. Bush, but when your mother is in her 90s, you just don’t say, “But Mom, I thought you used to say ‘Only Democrats get us into wars.”

I always liked Eisenhower. Still to this day, I think of the 50s as the “good days”, even though I was just a little kid, and I know that for most little kids as long as they can play, have enough food to eat, and don’t get abused, childhood is “the good days”. I remember seeing “Ike” in some parade in Salina, maybe when he was running for his second term. And, of course, Ike and Mamie and the baby are buried right there in the Eisenhower Center, where I’ve been many times.

Bob Dole was our county attorney. Because Dad was township trustee, I’d sometimes go with him up to Russell to the courthouse to Dole’s office. Mom and Dad were also the Republican precinct chairman and chairwoman some of those years, so sometimes Bob Dole would come out to the farm campaigning, both for when he was still running for county attorney, then later when he was running for congress from Kansas’ Big First District. If I remember right, Kansas still had 6 congressional districts at that time (now it has just four). I still have the letter of congratulations from him from when I was sent to Kansas Boys’ State at KU. I always thought and still think that he is a pretty good guy. He did after a McCain-like marriage situation. He divorced his first wife, and a lot of people said it was because she was good enough to be a politician’s wife–a Washington wife. She eventually got married to a farmer from Sylvan Grove, and I would see her off and on when I was working over there in the summers. Then later, he married Elizabeth. She’s now a Senator from North Carolina and probably get beat this year, but why either of them wants to stay in politics at their age is a wonder.

I guess I liked when he ran for President the first time, but the first time I remember voting was for John Anderson. I guess by that time I’d already started thinking more about the realities of what the political parties stood for, but I still wasn’t ready to vote for a Democrat. By the time, Jimmy Carter came around, I had more idea of which side thought more like I do, and I haven’t changed my mind much since when Ronald Reagan’s time when all these religious right people started getting more and more control in the Republican party.

But really, it’s hard to tell who these people are; they’re not at all like the Republicans from earlier years that I remember. For sure, those on either side of the political fence could get very argumentative about their positions and put their feet in the ground about where they stood on the issues. But where does all this hate come from? They don’t even seem to care about the issues. Actually, some of things I see from them at rallies looks more like Serbians or other Eastern Europeans, when they were fuming about their former neighbors, who were of a different ethnicity. Or like what I’ve seen on old news reels of some of the German people lashing out against the Jews during Hitler’s early years, before WWII.

It’s really frightening.

I know there are probably still lots of good Republicans out there, but at the moment, the ones who the McCain-Palin campaign are attracting to their events act more like doberman pinschers guarding the junkyard fence.