Do you find there are days when reading the news is just too maddening, and that your mental health is better served by ignoring any mention of the Bush administration and its abuses of power? I’ve been having a lot of those days since the election (“gee, no kidding” say those of you loyal readers who pop in almost daily to see if the blog has been updated), and today – as Democrats do their pointless swaggering even as they admit that Condoleezza Rice’s confirmation is a sure thing, and Bush asks for another $80 billion for his immoral war in Iraq (gosh, some of that missing money would be handy right now) – is definitely one.

We’ve been trying to restore order to our garage since the new furnace was installed. Part of the plan was to put back fewer boxes than we moved before the work began. That has meant spending many hours purging papers and junk in a marathon effort that must end before school starts next week. One of the “treasures” I found was an old copy of Congressional Quarterly, dated November 12, 1994. It’s sitting right here next to me, a scary picture of Newt Gingrich on the cover, and one inside of Newt with his second wife Marianne — the one he dumped when he learned she had a condition that could lead to MS (that was the one after the one he dumped while she was being treated for breast cancer). Under the headline “New Speaker, New Order” are three subheaders: “Gingrich Proclaims A National Mandate To Upend Government,” “Historic GOP Sweep Brings Big Burdens With Hill Control,” and “Clinton, Democrats Seek New Identity From Election Debacle.” (Emphasis mine.) Same song, new decade.

I think the cover is casting some kind of depressive spell over me (no doubt something involving an eye of Newt?) because the longer it sits here, the worse I feel. Let me hasten to the recyling bin…

  • Remember, Bush calls them his base. In a Nation column, Micah Sifry tracks down an “elite” Bush donor/fundraiser and discusses the perks of being a mega-donor.
  • Johnny Carson, 1925 – 2005. My favorite moments of “The Tonight Show” won’t surprise some of you: they were the animal segments (although any Tim Conway visit was a close second). For a long time, I desperately wanted Joan Embery’s job at the San Diego Zoo, and my parents always let me (in those wee younger years) stay up to watch her appearances with Johnny. Johnny Carson milked more hilarity out of those animal segments (not just with Joan Embery, but with “Jim” from “Wild Kingdom,” with Jack Hanna, etc) than anyone before or since, and viewers always managed to learn something about the animals at the same time. I still love watching those clips.
  • Speaking of inspirational animal people, naturalist Miriam Rothschild also passed away this week.
  • I’m really trying to puzzle this out. San Francisco wants to tax all grocery bags, plastic and paper, in order to reduce littering and to recover the costs of recycling the paper bags. “Officials believe that the city spends 5.2 cents per bag annually for street litter pickup and 1.4 cents per bag for extra recycling costs.” Do officials know this, or believe this? If it’s true, why charge the same tax for both, when recycling costs less than cleaning up? And what if this policy ends up compelling shoppers to make smaller but more frequent shopping trips — in their single occupant vehicles?
  • If you think the earth is 6000 years old, this item won’t appeal to you. Investigators in Ethiopia have found fossil remains from 9 individual early hominids (4.5-4.3 million years old), including fossilized foot bones that indicate the species (Ardipithecus ramidus) probably walked upright.

    The news reminds me… In early January, Michelle Goldberg had a very disturbing story in Salon (and now via Truthout) on the Dover, PA school board’s decision to teach creationism – excuse me – “intelligent design.” In December the SF Chronicle had a similar feature about the nationwide trend. It ends in a special kind of twilight zone:

    “I happen to believe both in God and evolution,” (Jeff Brown) said, and his wife nodded: “Hear, hear.”

    The Browns appear to be in the minority. Although public schools have been teaching evolution for decades, a national Gallup poll in November 2004 showed that only 35 percent of those asked believed confidently that Darwin’s theory was “supported by the evidence.” More than one-third of those polled by CBS News later in November said creationism should be taught instead of evolution.

    “A guy came up to me and said, ‘Wait a minute, you believe in God and evolution at the same time? Evolution isn’t in the Bible!'” said Brown, nibbling on a deep-fried mozzarella stick at the Shiloh Family Restaurant on Route 74. As he became more agitated, his voice grew louder, and other customers — mostly gray-haired women and elderly men in baseball hats — turned their heads to look at the couple. Carol Brown kept putting her index finger to her lips, gesturing for her husband to be quieter.

    After the Browns left the restaurant, a waitress in her 30s slipped a note to a Chronicle reporter.

    “Beware,” it read. “God wrote over 2,000 years ago that there would be false prophets and teachers. If you would like to know the truth read the Bible.”

    OK, the original 1929 60-amp fuse box is being replaced/upgraded tomorrow (and probably the next day, and the next) which will be a very good thing in the long run, but will mean day-long brown-outs in the short run. I’m working from home tomorrow to make sure dogs, cats, bicycles, tools, etc. don’t wander out of the garage while the electricians are coming and going. That means I’ll need to conserve my computer battery for work-related activity. But if I can bring myself to read any news, I’ll blog at night when the power is back on.

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