The Insatiable Political Money Appetite

Some years ago a friend’s relative ran for political office.  The friend sheepishly asked if we might make a contribution to the campaign.  I didn’t know the relative, but we wanted to be supportive, so we kicked in a modest sum.  It’s the only political contribution I’ve made in recent memory.

What happened next was that my email address, and the fact that I’d made a financial contribution, got shared with other politicians of the same political party — and suddenly I was receiving regular emails from lots of elected officials and erstwhile candidates for national and statewide office.  The list of my political email correspondents continues to grow, and every one of the messages, without exception, seeks money.  I’ll get four or five emails a day from the candidates themselves, their campaign managers, their political directors, and even other politicians who are supporting their campaigns.

67815-mr_creosote-monty-python-obesity“I’m asking you for $5.”  “Robert, did you see the message from X?”  “We need your help to meet our March fundraising goal.”  “Don’t be fooled — this is not a safe seat.”  “We’re counting on you to help us crush the dark forces of evil represented by the other party.”  (OK, the last one isn’t a verbatim quote, but that’s the gist.)

It’s amazing how many fundraising appeals are sent, and how constant the barrage is.  I suppose I could remove myself from the lists, but I find it interesting to get even this limited perspective into how our current political system works.  It’s all about money, and scare tactics, and a parade of horribles designed to wrest a few bucks from the common man.  And interestingly, every email with a desperate request for money that I get makes me less inclined to make another contribution.  The fundraising pleas aren’t only manipulative, they also show that if I did make another contribution I’d only be feeding the beast, encouraging an even more overwhelming barrage of emails, and probably causing the campaigns to hire more people to do even more fundraising.

The appetite of political campaigns for money is as insatiable as the appetite of Monty Python’s colossal diner.  You wonder if, like the diner, one day it’s all going to blow up.

Monty Python, Back From The Choir Invisible

News sites are reporting that the surviving members of the Monty Python troupe are talking about putting on a reunion show.  For any true fan — and I count myself as one — this is tremendous news.  If only Graham Chapman were here to participate, too!

To mark the occasion, I offer one of Python’s greatest sketches — the classic pet shop piece about the pining Norwegian blue parrot.

Spam, Spam, Spam, And Spam

WordPress, which publishes our humble blog, provides a program that detects “spam” comments and segregates them from apparently legitimate comments.  Every once in a while you need to go into the spam folder and clean it out.  That is one of my jobs.

Most spam is self-evidently spammy.  The less inventive spam will just give a reference to a sex website.  Other times the would-be spammer tries to write something sufficiently generic that you conceivably might think it was written about your posting — if you were desperate enough for comments.  Here’s an example:  “Thanks a lot for sharing this with all people you really understand what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly additionally talk over with my site =). We will have a link change contract among us.”  Huh?  Like this example, most spam probably was originally written in Croatian and then translated, badly, into English.  The words are familiar, but the sentences may as well have been written by chimps randomly stringing words together.

I always think of the classic Monty Python spam song as I am doing my spam deletions:

Epic Fail In The Buck Back

Norfolk State’s epic victory over a shell-shocked Missouri basically guaranteed that I will have my worst Buck Back performance ever.  Although my picks have been dismal and the results embarrassing, it’s impossible not to enjoy — a little bit — a huge underdog’s win, especially when they are led by a guy named Kyle O’Quinn on the day before St. Patrick’s Day.

In any case, this classic footage from Monty Python aptly captures the state of my Buck Back team.

Looking On The Bright Side

Today’s announcement of the latest unemployment figures was bad news all around — only 18,000 jobs created, the unemployment rate up to 9.2%, more than 270,000 out-of-work Americans who have just stopped looking for a job, and growing fears that our lingering recission is going to get worse before it gets better.  One economist quoted in the linked article said it was “an employment report with no redeeming features whatsoever.”

My grandmother told me, however, that I should always look on the bright side.  I’ve tried to do that about the current sad state of the American economy, and have come up with the following possible silver linings:

*  We’re kicking Greece’s ass!

*  “Quantative easing” would be a good phrase to use in a laxative commercial.

*  When you think about it, owning your own home really is kind of a hassle, anyway.

*  Look, a squirrel!

If those don’t do the trick, how about the classic song of unbridled optimism from Monty Python’s Life of Brian:

 

Not Dead Yet

The political pundits are dissecting the results of the 2010 election and pontificating about President Obama and his future.  The pundits always seem to grossly overreact to the results of an election, however.  After the 2008 election, many people were shoveling dirt on the Republican Party, arguing that it would be relegated to permanent minority status.  Hey, how did that prediction turn out?

The overreaction to the 2010 election is similar.  We have some Democrats arguing that President Obama should declare that he will not seek reelection, so that he can better deal with our pressing problems.  (It’s hard for me to understand how a voluntary lame duck President would be better situated to get things done, but maybe I just don’t understand politics.)  I think such talk is silly.  For now, at least, we should presume that President Obama is a smart, capable politician who can figure out which way the wind is blowing.  He will make adjustments.  (In fact, Obama Administration officials have been doing some navel-gazing and considering how they can re-energize this presidency and rebuild the coalition that got President Obama elected in the first place.)

In the meantime, the current storyline reminds me of this classic scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Like the unfortunate old man in the mud-spattered village, President Obama isn’t dead yet.

On A Possible Republican Sweep, And The Political Lessons To Be Learned From The Tale Of Brave Sir Robin

If the polls are to be believed — and that remains an open question in my mind — Republicans are likely to win the House of Representatives and have a long shot chance of assuming control of the Senate.  If that occurs, voters will find out whether the Republicans mean what they have been saying during the campaign or whether they will instead be like Brave Sir Robin.

Remember Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  He was the publicity-hungry knight who desperately wanted to join in the search for the Grail.  He left on his quest accompanied by a minstrel and a cadre of musicians who sang constantly about his adventures.  And yet, when the going got tough and the giant three-headed knight awaited, Brave Sir Robin made no attempt to fight.  As his minstrel sang:

When danger reared its ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out
Bravely talking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin

I’m tired of politicians who talk a good game but don’t deliver.  I’m hoping that, if Republicans in fact sweep to victory this November, they will indeed slash spending, reduce the deficit, and restore fiscal sanity to our federal government.  If they instead act like Brave Sir Robin, I think that will be it for me and the Republicans.  I’ll have to start looking for Sir Lancelot elsewhere.

Portion Control

Last night we went to dinner at Shish Kebab, a Turkish restaurant selected by Dr. Science.  It was a very nice place with good food, but the portions were enormous — too much, I think, for any person with a normal appetite to finish in one sitting.

This scenario has become all too common.  Has anyone else been troubled by the fact that dinners at too many American restaurants consist of large platters groaning with impossible amounts of food?  We aren’t all contestants in competitive eating contests, or NFL linemen chowing down after a hard-fought game.  Those of us who were raised to be members of the “clean plate club” when we were growing up face an impossible predicament when confronted with such dinners.  Either we clean our plate and depart waddling and uncomfortably glutted, or we leave a significant amount of food on the plate and have to deal with the voice of the inner Mom, reminding us of starving children in Asia, for the rest of the evening.

Why do American restaurants so often serve such knee-buckling amounts of food?  Do they believe that quantity wins out over quality?  Or, in this recessionary period, do they think that diners are looking to maximize the food bang for the food buck?

C’mon, restauranteurs of America!  Give us a break!  When so many Americans are battling weight issues, we need you to exercise a bit of portion control.  Serve reasonable amounts of well-cooked food for a reasonable price, and let us leave satisfied, but not full to bursting like Mr. Creosote of the Monty Python sketch.