Russell Over The Fireplace

We’ve put a lot of Russell’s artwork on display as part of our recent spruce-up efforts.  We’re proud parents, obviously, but we think his pieces are just terrific.

We used to have a nice metal mirror over our fireplace.  When Kish found this huge charcoal and ink piece that Russell did, however, we both liked it so much we wanted to put it in a prominent spot, so the mirror came down and Russell’s art went up in its place.  We think it makes our family room a lot more interesting.

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Many Questions To Be Answered, Publically And Quickly (IV)

I’m glad to see reports that Senate Democrats are joining their Republican colleagues in asking the Obama Administration to answer questions about what happened in Libya that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

As the story from The Hill linked above shows, the Obama Administration’s story about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi remains vague and unfocused; today Administration aptly described the Administration position as “evolving.”   The Administration seems to have backed away from its initial position that the attack was the result of unplanned demonstrations about a YouTube video, and has begun to use words like terrorism and even, apparently, al Qaeda to describe the attack.  It’s long past time that full disclosure should be made, including communications between Ambassador Stevens and the U.S. State Department about security and terrorism issues in Libya and planning related to security at U.S. installations.

As the participation of Senate Democrats indicates, what happened in Benghazi is not a partisan political issue.  Instead, it is a national security issue, a sovereignty issue, and also an issue of fairness to American diplomatic personnel across the world.  We need to ensure that our people are adequately protected and that our government is reacting prudently and appropriately to threats and warnings.  As far as I am concerned, meaningful congressional hearings into the disastrous Benghazi incident cannot begin soon enough.

Entertainment, Tonight

We’re having some old friends over for dinner tonight.  (Old in the sense that we’ve been friends for decades, although they admittedly are getting a bit long in the tooth, too.)

The house is all spiffed up, the rooms have been painted, and artwork has been hung on the walls.  Food is in the oven, wine is on the center island of the kitchen, and the garden has been raided for some huge and colorful blooms.  Webner House has put on her party dress for some Friday night festivity.

Viewer Preparation For That First Presidential Debate

President Obama and Mitt Romney are busy preparing for their first debate, set for October 3 at the University of Denver.  With the first debate less than a week away, that means the rest of us need to prepare, too.

For all of their build-up, the debates usually are a yawner.  We’d like to see something shocking, spontaneous, hilarious, or intensely revealing, but it never happens.  Wouldn’t you love to see a candidate take a chance and do something to shake things up, like Mitt Romney coming onstage wearing a top hat and monocle in a humorous bid to deflate the “out-of-touch rich guy” mantra?  Of course, no candidate wants to take the risk that a bold effort or answer might backfire, so they play everything close to the vest.

As a result, for every memorable debate moment — like President Reagan, in response to a question about age, promising not to hold Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience” against him, Mike Dukakis’ robotic answer to a question about his wife getting raped, or Al Gore invading George Bush’s personal space — there are countless hours of tedious blather.  Adding “new” formats, like a “town hall” where “ordinary citizens” ask screwball questions, hasn’t changed the dullness quotient.  Does anyone remember anything about the Dole-Clinton debates in 1996, the Bush-Kerry debates in 2004, or the Obama-McCain debates in 2008?

What do viewers need to do to get themselves ready for the debates?  First, go to the grocery store and buy the biggest grain of salt you can find.  You’re going to need it for the silly pre-debate expectations management game and the post-debate spin and posturing.  Second, and speaking of the post-debate spin cycle, every viewer should do some preparatory eye muscle exercises, so they don’t harm themselves by uncontrolled eye-rolling in response to an outlandish claim that one candidate or the other committed the most awful gaffe in the history of politics.  Third, laying in heavy supplies of Five-Hour Energy, coffee, and Jolt Cola is a good idea, to help you make it through the droning “serious” question about education policy by a camera-hungry member of the panel of reporters and the equally droning answers of the candidates.

And during the first debate I predict every viewer will check their TV for mechanical failure at least once, because moderator Jim Lehrer’s sober visage will not have changed.  No need for that:  Lehrer, who pursuant to federal law has moderated every president debate since the Hoover administration, isn’t actually alive, but instead was manufactured decades ago when animatronics hadn’t progressed to the point of allowing nuanced facial expressions.

Time to get ready, America!

Declining To Make Do With Low Expectations

The consensus seems to be that Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention was hugely effective for President Obama’s reelection campaign.  Many people have pointed to Clinton’s statement that no one — not even Clinton himself! — could have done a better with the economic challenges President Obama inherited as a key point in the speech.

Whether you agree with that sentiment or not — and I don’t agree with it — I think that viewpoint, by itself, represents a kind of sea change for Americans.  We always want things to be bigger, faster, cheaper, better.  We don’t settle.  We expect our sports teams to win and call for the coach’s head if they don’t.  We celebrate victors and shun losers.  If Americans are buying Bill Clinton’s argument, that says something about our country, and I think it says something sad.

We’ve never been cold realists.  This is a place of dreams, of surprising success stories, of Horatio Alger and “constant improvement.”  If we now just shrug and overlook or excuse crappy economic performance without holding people accountable, where are we heading as a country?

Oh, by the way, today the Commerce Department announced that durable goods orders fell by 13.2 percent, the worst drop since the depths of the recession.  That suggests that factory activity is down, and the economy is nowhere close to rebounding.  Bill Clinton might think that’s as good as anyone could do.  Sorry, Bill, I think you’re full of it.  I refuse to lower my expectations, and I think the performance of our economy right now is just unacceptable.  I suspect that many other Americans share that sentiment.

Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Gloom Of Night . . . .

Kish and I like to think of ourselves as patriotic Americans.  So, when Russell asked us to ship something to him, we decided to use the U.S. Postal Service.  Hey, we subsidize it, so we might as well use it!

We boxed up some sturdy stoneware plates and glasses and other dishes, using bubble wrap and newspaper to cushion and protect them on their journey to Brooklyn.  We took them to the post office and sent them by first-class mail.  It cost about $13.  That was weeks ago.

The box never arrived.  We don’t know if it was mis-delivered, or stolen, or destroyed by some maddened postal worker who decided to take out his frustrations on our parcel rather than his co-workers.  Whatever our package’s unhappy fate, it didn’t make it to its intended Brooklyn destination.  In fairness, Kish points out that this is the first time one of our postal deliveries to Richard and Russell just . . . disappeared.  To that I can only respond that it has now happened, where that has never happened to a package I’ve sent by FedEx or one of the other private delivery companies.

I like those new Postal Service commercials where the agreeable postal worker convinces nutty people that shipping really isn’t that complicated.  That’s right — it isn’t, or shouldn’t be.  How would that affable postal worker react when a package just vanishes, and your plates, and your $13, just go poof?

On The Road (Again)

Back on the road and in the skies today.  More time for me to appreciate the wonders of air travel, the sturdy beauty of our modern jet aircraft, and the inner workings of airports, with their finely timed dance of baggage handlers, runway workers, and cockpit crews.  More time for me to consider just how many people work for the TSA, and how much all of those blue-shirted uniforms and shoulder walkie-talkies cost, anyway.  More time for me to appreciate the simple joy of sleeping soundly in my own bed again, with my lovely wife beside me.