Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 Online Red Kettle and other ways to help out

I had to force myself to get through the farewell-to-Austin post after weeks of no motivation to do so, partially so that I could get to this post.  Those of you who have read this blog before will recognize it, as I rarely change the wording year to year.

As has been my wont for the past six years, I am once again hosting an Online Red Kettle for the Salvation Army, for those who have either already finished their shopping or want to plan out their donations in advance.  (If you've finished your shopping already--I'm posting this about two weeks earlier this year than last--I don't really want to hear about it given my own habit of procrastination.)

If you would like to donate through my virtual kettle, you can do so by clicking the kettle below (unlike last year, the kettle is clickable now).

(Image courtesy The Salvation Army)

A couple of other ways to help out this holiday season (and, really, any time) are as follows:

If you are in the Austin area (even though I no longer am), the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, where, according to what they have said, your monetary donation can go about five times as far as a food donation, as they can buy in bulk and save money.  They do a lot of good work, and we've supported them before.

And as I have mentioned previously, my friends Ryan and Ashley Beard have created an organization, 48 Lives, which will assist with international adoptions.  Ryan completed a 48-hour run to raise money for this (in which he ran over 140 miles) and has helped place at least one child with a family who loves her very much.

All of these options are well worth your support.  This holiday season, let's all help someone out who needs it.

On leaving Austin

I knew something would come along to help break my writer's block.  I just never expected it would be moving 1000 miles away.

Yes, my day job has taken me to another state, and I have left Austin behind after living there for over 15 years.  That, by far, is the longest I have ever lived in any one city.  Saying goodbye is both difficult and easy, as there are many things I will miss, but also many things I won't.

I will miss:

  • The generally friendly manner of folks around here.  (This is not to say people won't be friendly elsewhere, of course.)
  • The sunrises and sunsets in Texas.  If you haven't stopped and simply viewed one in a while, let me encourage you to do so.
  • The many, many friends I have made in my time here.
  • The church families who have made us feel welcome these many years.
  • The generally conservative populace and the business-friendly environment of Texas.
  • The food.  Yes, some Austin chains have branched out to other cities and states (Rudy's, for example, will still be within about an hour's drive of my new home, and I hear rumors that Chuy's will also be within that distance in the next year or so), but obviously some places are exclusive to Austin.
  • Those at my places of employment who have supported my career development (which, thankfully, has never depended on timely blog entries).
  • H-E-B.  We've been spoiled to have a grocery chain as good as that, and I already know the prices are higher at my new supermarket of choice.

But--let's be honest--there are quite a few things that I won't miss:

  • The traffic, as exacerbated by years of the "if we don't build it, maybe they won't come" mindset that dominated the Austin City Council for a good portion of the past three decades.  It's not for nothing that Austin is ranked fourth in the nation for traffic congestion.  (Added bonus:  my new home didn't make the top ten.  So there.)
  • The mindset, particularly among local elected officials, that Republicans are some combination of evil and stupid. 
  • Hand-in-hand with the previous entry is that fact that some city councilpersons have often used their official social media accounts to be overtly partisan.  Mike Martinez has been known to block constituents who even mildly challenge him on his Twitter statements.  Way to represent, Mr. Martinez.  (If the City of Austin votes him in as mayor in the runoff, you deserve the dysfunctional council you've given yourselves.)
  • The humidity.  There is never a circumstance in which temperatures above 80° after 10:00 at night are acceptable.
  • The mold.  With the humidity comes a scourge that Mrs. Snowed hates above all else in this town.
  • Cedar fever.  If it lasted all year, it might knock mold from the top of Mrs. Snowed's list.
  • The Chronicle (referred to as the "worthless weekly", when I've referred to it at all).  I don't think I picked one up in the past year anyway, so, really, I wouldn't have any reason to miss it at this point anyway.
  • The thankfully few people who talk of A&M graduates the way some local officials (hello again, Mr. Martinez) talk of Republicans.
  • The mindset that Austin is the coolest place on earth and that all other places are lame.  Some pride in one's hometown is expected, but Austin has earned its reputation for having arrogant residents.  I would point the reader to an example column illustrating this, but there's a pretty good chance you've seen one of them already...and my guess is that you, like me, have no desire to read it again.
With all that said, the good of Austin would outweigh the bad if not for the fact that my family is not healthy in this town.  And so it is that we have uprooted ourselves and gone away.  I'm sure I will be checking in to see how things are going in Austin without us (please vote against Mike Martinez!), but it's time to move on.

Best wishes, Austin.  You were good to me for many years.  You won't be forgotten.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Sarah Palin is right...and wrong

I'll say this: Sarah Palin knows how to whip people into a frenzy. It's virtually effortless for her at this point.

Consider: just yesterday, Governor Palin mentioned, in passing, that she could provide balance to the so-far-left-it-could-tip-over-at-any-time ABC discussion program The View. Within minutes, the internet exploded. (What, didn't you see it?) Twitter was awash in people aghast at the possibility that ABC might let her near the program. (Twitchy has a little sampling of the reactions here.) Do I think she really expects any sort of consideration for The View? Good grief, she hardly gets consideration from a lot of the folks at Fox now, so why expect better treatment anywhere else?

No, I don't think she expects to be joining The View anytime soon. (Or ever, honestly, though I will say I was surprised that a reliably liberal program like The View let Dana Loesch on, so I may not have the most insight into ABC's thought processes.) No, I think Sarah Palin said what she said because she knows how to play the media. And she does it very well. She knows that a statement like this will cause howls of outrage from the usual suspects, and she makes that type of statement anyway.

And why? Simple: by continuing to live rent-free in so many haters' heads (haters, I might add, from both major political parties), and also by continuing to inspire many people (including many, but certainly not all, Tea Partiers), she can virtually guarantee herself mega-exposure when she zings President Obama.

And did she ever zing him today.

In case you missed today's internet explosion (or perhaps one of today's explosions), Governor Palin posted a little piece on with the not-at-all-attention-grabbing headline "EXCLUSIVE—SARAH PALIN: 'IT'S TIME TO IMPEACH' PRESIDENT OBAMA" this morning.*

The main paragraph follows:

President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here. It’s not going to get better, and in fact irreparable harm can be done in this lame-duck term as he continues to make up his own laws as he goes along, and, mark my words, will next meddle in the U.S. Court System with appointments that will forever change the basic interpretation of our Constitution’s role in protecting our rights. 

Of course, Governor Palin is right: President Obama and his administration are mired in scandal after scandal. Laws have absolutely been broken, subpoenas ignored, enemies harassed, etc. President Nixon resigned for less than this, and he was within days of being impeached himself when he bailed. Impeachment for President Obama would be an appropriate response to the behavior of this administration, to be sure.

There's only one problem: it's not time to impeach President Obama. And for the foreseeable future, it will never be.

There are, as one might expect, several reasons why this is the case, but let's start with the obvious one:

The Witch Hunt theory. Let's face it: any impeachment attempt will immediately be equated to the gotcha mindset during the late 1990s that did a brilliant job of derailing the Contract With America. It became more important to "get" Bill Clinton than to get anything worthwhile done. And what came of it? President Clinton got a slap on the wrist, the Republicans got eaten alive in the media, and, as everyone knew would happen going in, the Senate couldn't even get a simple majority to vote for removal from office, let alone the two-thirds required. It didn't matter that President Clinton deserved impeachment; the way the whole affair was presented was that the Republicans just hated the president. How much worse to you think impeachment will appear to people when we have the first black president, particularly given that our side is already routinely accused of racism?

And, of course, we have the other big reason that impeachment is not going to happen:

The GOP is a party of squishes. For years, the higher-ups in Congress have shown unswerving loyalty to...getting reelected. When a sitting Republican senator can be accused, believably, of stoking fear in order to get a bunch of African-American Democrats to cross over and vote against a primary opponent, you have to wonder how much a lot of these Republicans care about the principals for which they claim to stand.

And, let's face it: a bunch of scaredy-cats who care more for their political futures than anything else are not going to take any sort of chance of alienating voters, particularly just months before the mid-terms.

Finally, let's not forget this old favorite:

A non-trivial number of people idolize President Obama. This rather feeds into the previous two reasons, but as I have asserted (and partially walked back), President Obama benefits from a fairly substantial cult of personality,** in a way that neither Nixon or Clinton did while facing their potential or actual impeachments. Want to earn someone's enmity for life? Trying to destroy that person's idol is a pretty good start in a lot of cases.

And all of that adds up to the fact that it would ridiculous to even think that impeachment has a chance in this political environment. And that, unfortunately, means that even calling for it amounts to little more than tilting at windmills.

Now, with all that said, I will say again that Sarah Palin is a master at playing the media. It may be that this is a very calculated attempt to fire up voters to try to flip the Senate and pad our advantage in the House, since we know (and, honestly, she knows) that nothing is going to come of this call for impeachment, at least as far as Congress is concerned. I hope this is her way of rallying the troops, deep down; if it isn't, then Sarah Palin is absolutely wrong on this one.

* Warning:  as I have found out the hard way, Breitbart articles have the occasional tendency to disappear after a couple of years...or sooner.

** I have also said previously that Sarah Palin benefits similarly, though certainly not to the same extent. I'm too tired to look up where I said it, but take my word for it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Snowed In vs. Burnout, Part 2

Over the past couple of years (as seen here...), I've grown more and more burned out on the whole world of politics.  This is not because I don't think that my political ideas are important, or worth defending, or whatever, but rather because I just have not had time to properly engage in that world.

As my regular reader* knows, I have a day job and a family.  (I don't just blog full time, or I'd be in serious trouble at this point.)  The job and the family demand and, yes, deserve a lot more of my time than writing a sixth-rate political blog best known for breaking a scandal in Austin almost six years ago.  I just don't have time to write a lot of deep thoughts about political issues, or at least I don't have time to do so in a timely manner.  (The reader is at this point directed to my timely post about the Chick-Fil-A situation in Aug--er, September 2012.)

I mean, good grief, I don't even have the time to put forth the amount of effort required to leave comments on news articles (comments which, I had hoped at one point, I would stop reading owing to the large number of uninformed and/or rude comments that can easily be found on any political post) because, from my observations, there seem to be many people who have nothing better to do than comment on news articles all day.  It doesn't matter if I made a better point then they have; they can simply bury my comment, and others like it, in a heap of other comments supporting their point.  These people don't want to have a discussion; they simply want those who disagree with them to shut up.  Sadly, because they have nothing better to do than comment all day, people like me don't want to take the trouble to engage them in discussion, and thus they get what they want.

And really, does anyone really want to have a discussion anyway?  Someone, and I don't remember who at this point, pointed out online (it might have been on Facebook, but it doesn't really matter) that most of the political tweets or blogs seem to revolve around the outrage of the day.  So much shouting, so much finger-pointing, but not nearly enough real dialogue.  And I'm certainly not going to assert that I've never participated in such a thing...a quick perusal of this blog's Facebook page (which, thankfully, is more active than this blog itself) shows a few links to articles on the topic du jour, but in most cases, I have also expressed hope for a dialogue about whatever it is I'm posting about.**

And so it was that I asked--ten (!!) months ago--on my Facebook page whether it was worth it to continue political blogging.  The answers I got (yes, an actual dialogue, almost!) were a mixed bag.  Some said that blogging on our side of the aisle was necessary simply to continue to get our side's message out.  Others said it wasn't worth it to keep it up and to concentrate on other passions.***  Both sides have a point.

That's another point: in many political discussions (and religious discussions, and even sports discussions, though there are few rational sports discussions), both sides have a point worth consideration.  I am trying not to discount people's opinions too quickly (though I will still discount someone's opinions fairly quickly if that someone cannot make a point without insulting the other side) these days.  Blogging, for too long, at least for me, was about trying to be right and proving the other side wrong.

With all that said, though, I would very much like to restart the sharing of my thoughts on this blog.  However, I am most likely not going to jump into nearly as many of the news-of-the-day stories.  I will, though, strive harder even that I did before to keep my thoughts civil.  I might, for example, scrutinize someone's public record, but I will not make assumptions about that person's character.  (If you're looking for insulting comments about public figures--or worse, pictures--there are plenty of other blogs on either side of the aisle that will accommodate you.)

Will I be able to accomplish my goal of sharing overtly political thoughts in both a civil and timely manner?  Obviously that remains to be seen.  But here's hoping.

*The author here accounts for the possibility that he does have more than one regular reader at this point, although a several-month hiatus has almost certainly done nothing to add to that number.

**There is something to be said, however, for the truth that I do that partly so that Facebook's weird algorithms will cause my posts to be displayed on more people's pages.

***For example, did you know I have a blog about unfairly forgotten songs?  Music has been a constant companion to me for longer than I have had political opinions.