Sunday, September 26, 2010

White House Baby Speaks

I know it's been a while since I posted, and I still owe the second half of our voyage to our new house. Sorry. It's been a tough couple months, and I just haven't found much time to get to writing, what with all the sleeping, pooping and nursing I have to do. It's an exhausting schedule.

Anyway, this weekend Opa came to visit me. It was pretty exciting to meet him. I mean, aside from having a beard, which I find absolutely fascinating, he also has less hair than I do! Let me tell you, it's a relief to know that there's someone in this family who's losing a lot of heat due to inadequate head covering. Also, I discovered that we have the same head, which was a pretty cool discovery.

Yesterday was too hot to really do much, so we mostly hung out at the house. But today... Today Dad had big plans for us. I guess the guy who introduced Mom and Dad works at the White House now, and Dad wanted to show off. So we went on a tour. I was a little skeptical, to be honest. But I can't really vocalize coherently yet, so off we went. It was me, Mom, Dad, Miles, Opa and Rita. That's Miles' grandma. We took a train. When we got to the White House, we had to go through 2 guard gates. I figured the Secret Service would definitely figure out that something was amiss, but apparently my family is cleaner than I thought. That or they hide it better than I gave them credit for. Once we got inside the first guard gate, my folks' "friend" showed up. Turns out his name is Blake, too. Apparently people named Blake don't get to keep their hair. Who knew? Anyway, off we went for our big tour.

It didn't take long until a Secret Service guard waved for us to stop. "Finally," I thought. I was pretty sure that we'd be surrounded by agents, and my parents would be hauled away. I would miss them, but they just seem very suspicious. And I'd really rather not be raised in a criminal enterprise. Anyway, Dad kept saying, "Keep your eyes open, I think the President is going to walk by."

I heard the Secret Service guy say "Renegade is on the move," but Dad was standing still, so I'm not sure what that's about. But it seemed like they really had noticed us, so I was pretty sure they were making a move. Then a tactical agent came out of some door, and I was sure it was about to go down. But all he did was show my brother the banana clips he was carrying and say something about how many bullets he were in them. No arrests, no standoffs, nothing. Eventually, we got to keep going, but they kept telling us we couldn't go near the Oval Office. They claimed President Obama was in there, but everyone knows when you're president you don't have to work on the weekend.

Well, even if it was a fake out, we couldn't go into the part where the Oval Office is. Instead, we went out to the fancy entrance of the West Wing. Everyone took pictures. What's with the pictures, anyway?

When we walked into the next room, everyone seemed pretty excited. I guess something fancy happens there. I don't know much about it, except that they made me sit on some stupid podium and get my picture taken. I'm not sure why, but it did seem kinda cool. Maybe I'll make a habit out of standing behind podiums. You know, when I can stand.

But then my goofus Dad had to go ruin everything by doing something really geeky. I mean, does it get any geekier than some kind of Superman impersonation featuring a campaign T-shirt? I don't think so.

I was soooo embarrassed. And then, when we walked out, David Plouffe was walking by! I almost died of embarrassment. I mean, there I am, strapped to my goofus Dad, and there's the architect of the biggest presidential campaign in history. Seriously. I almost died. Or maybe I pooped in my diaper. Sometimes it's kinda hard to tell what's going on. I think my Dad might be a stalker, cuz he proceeded to follow David Plouffe up the driveway. Mom said something about "Maybe the president is out and we can see the Oval now," and Dad said, "I don't think he's coming out if Mr. Plouffe is going in." I couldn't believe it. What a stupid thing to say. And then David Plouffe turned around and smiled at us. I almost died. Wait, no, that was spit up. But particularly cheesy spit up. Which is kinda like dying.

Anyway, the rest of the time we just kinda wandered around. The Blake who's not my Opa showed us his office. Then he showed us some sub-basement that my Dad seemed really excited about. Something about a "steam pipe trunk distribution venue." Whatever that means. Before we left, we stopped by the bowling alley. The other Blake says that he heard the president's been practicing. I say you shouldn't try to bowl in a suit and tie.

In the end, it was a pretty cool day, I guess. I pooped where President Obama works, and I think maybe I snuck a little spit up past the towel and onto the carpet. Not that I don't like President Obama. Actually, he seems pretty cool. But considering the extent of my current abilities, I felt that pooping in the West Wing was a pretty fitting option.

Ok, well, see you you next time!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Notes from the Road with special guest author Lila "Travel Baby" Sutton

Well, it's been 5 days on the road now, and I've slept through almost 1/2 of America. I've mostly spent my time eating, napping, and pooping intermittently, but there have been a few highlights that I was awake to experience, as well as several that have been relayed to me from my daddyo or mummsy.

We started off with a short jaunt to Kingman, AZ. Mom had to drive, because Dad spent the whole night before packing and never went to sleep. He tried to stay awake and keep Mom company, but he failed. In Kingman, we stayed in my first Motel 6. We had to stay there because we're traveling with my brother and sister, Yolee (formerly Lola but changed to avoid confusion) and Toby. Motel 6 is the only place they can stay without a fee. Also, it's cheap. That means Dad can save more money to put me in chic diapers.

In the morning, I met my Great Nana, Uncle Wayne and Aunt Wanda, and Nikki. Mom says Nikki is my cousin once removed, but I don't really understand how cousin math works so I'm just gonna call her my cousin.

When we got on the road, we headed for Flagstaff. We got to stay in a house, cuz Dad's old time buddy Sethamarethamascoopamabobbob Sharkey lives there, and we stayed with him. Seth (for short) is cool. He gave Mom and Dad awesome juice and breakfast sandwiches. We hung out with him and his gal Marcy. Well, I mostly slept, but hey, what do you want from me?

Next, it was on to Albuquerque. Between Flagstaff and New Mexico, we stopped so Dad could take pictures of me at a fake teepee and with the world's largest petrified tree. He says someday I'll be grateful for the experience.

Dad says New Mexico is his favorite place in the whole wide world. It smelled nice, anyway. When we got there, I met Uncle John, Aunt Nancy, and the kids, Jade, Kai Noa and India.

It's a little confusing, because Jade says Dad's her big brother, but that's not really true. But he's known her since she was born, so whatever. I'm not very good at relative math, but I think they're not real relatives. They're the kind of relatives you choose, Dad says. I hope we get to see them again soon. Uncle John cooked a mean dinner up for us. Ok, for people with teeth, but you get my point.

That night it was Motel 6 again. The one in Bernalillo is a lot nicer than the one in Kingman. It used to be a Comfort Inn. In the morning, it was off to Santa Fe. That's where Uncle Dennis and Aunt Seie live. They were really nice to me. I'm pretty sure I pooped twice while we were there, and my Dad insisted on taking a bunch of stupid pictures of me in some touristy part of Santa Fe.

In the afternoon, we drove to Amarillo. That was a nice drive. We passed some weird places. Like Cuervo, NM. All the buildings on the South side of I-40 are abandoned. The ones on the North side were mostly trailers, and Dad was pretty sure people lived there although I have my doubts. When we got to Amarillo, there was a big thunderstorm, and I pooped in my pants (unrelated). Amarillo was really humid. I have to say, I'm not so big on humidity. Mom wanted to know why they named it "Yellow." I tried to tell her it was "Amari-low," not "Ama-ree-o," but I don't have control of my vocal chords, so no dice.

That Motel 6 had a laundry room, so Mom washed all my sweaty clothes, and the ones with spit-up and poop on them. It also had pergo floors, which is pretty smart (Mom says so). My brother and sister didn't poo on the floor (that night), but I bet someone else's did. Dad says it's easier to clean pergo than carpet.

Next up, it was Shawnee, Oklahoma. In between, we stopped at the largest cross in the western hemisphere. It's made out of aluminum siding. Dad says nothing shows spiritual devotion like building gigantic crosses out of aluminum siding. There were also a bunch of creepy statues there. Most of them Jesus was getting beat up or forced to carry some really heavy stuff. One of them was of Jesus and an Indian Chief hanging out. I thought it must be a Mormon thing, since Jesus didn't meet any Indians in the bible. But then I remembered that Mormons don't like crosses, so that didn't make sense either. Finally, Dad told me it was a Roman Centurion with a funny hat, not an Indian Chief. I didn't know Romans and Indian Chiefs wore the same hats, but I guess you learn something new every day.

After the big cross thing, we went to a place called a "trading post." Mom wants moccasins, but she can't find any she likes. Dad made me take a bunch of pictures with weird stuff. I think he thinks I'm a prop.

When we got to Shawnee, Dad was all excited because of some old song. Then he got all upset because the internet told him that Woody Guthrie was a down and dirty liar, and Pretty Boy Floyd never did anything worth noting in Shawnee. Dad got pretty sad. I don't really know what any of that means. Motel 6 was full, so we stayed at La Quinta. They make you pay $10 per sibling. Yolee didn't appreciate that, so she pooped on the floor. It was a pretty nice place, but not quite as nice with dog poo on the carpet.

Today, we drove to Middleofnowhere, Arkansas (not your Kansas, Arkansas). That's where Grandad and Bobbi live. Dad says their house is wicked pissah, and it's too bad they live 50 miles from nowhere. But the stars here are amazing. At least, they would be if I wasn't asleep. Dad was pretty impressed with them, though. And today we drove past Troy Aikman's home town, and Mom and Dad stopped 3 times for ice cream and lime-aid at some place called Braum's. They kept talking about how delicious it is, but I don't have teeth or enzymes, as previously discussed, so I was left out of it.

Overall, it's been a pretty cool trip. I get my ass wiped, I sleep as much as I want, and if I cry I get to suck on boobies. Sometimes I get to suck on boobies even when I don't cry. Here are 10 things I've learned about America:

1) In Oklahoma, they put up signs announcing that famous people once lived in a town and inviting you to visit based on that and that alone

2) In Texas and Oklahoma they like to show their devotion to Jesus by building monuments on the side of the interstate. We saw at least 4, plus many billboards

3) All highway-side "Indian Trading Posts" sell the same stuff, really

4) West Texas is friggin humid

5) Mosquitoes are NOT cool

6) Motel 6 has a corporate policy against putting alarm clocks in their rooms (or at least a strangely consistent lack of them in just the Motel 6 locations we've visited)

7) Living in West Texas, Oklahoma or Arkansas would be tolerable as long as you lived near a Braum's, because you can get a giant cone full of delicious ice cream for $1.29. At least, that's what Dad says

8) Woody Guthrie is a damn dirty liar, and he is not to be trusted

9) There are petrified trees just sitting next to the highway in Arizona. You could just pull over and take one. Seriously

10) Oklahoma does not do much road maintainance on I-40


-Lila "Travel Baby" Sutton

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup!

It's that magical time, once again.

The first World Cup I remember clearly was in 1998 - I was in Australia, and the games were in France. I honestly don't remember much other than being in the middle of cheering crowds everywhere I went for a month, and drinking hard in victories and defeats I had no stake in. But I could drink in a bar there, which was a good enough reason to get sauced.

In 2002, I had my first experience of closing a bar out, staying through the night, and being there to start drinking when it opened again. The games were in Korea and Japan that year, so they started between 11pm and 6am PT. The night our beloved boys lost to Germany in the semis, I left work at 11pm, went to the bar, watched a game already in progress, stayed through the 3am game and last call, and was drinking Bloody Marys at 6am when the bar reopened. The only thing that sucked was the US losing despite a late game, clear handball by Germany that prevented a tying US goal and also went uncalled. That and going to work again at 10am after the game was over...

In '06, I convinced the owners of the bar I was working at to open for the games. The host country was Germany, so games started between 6am and 2pm. Of course, most of the interesting ones were at 6am. Our biggest crowd was for the big US-Italy game. It was a brutal, grueling affair. And despite being a man down on bad calls, we almost pulled it off. A few moderately questionable calls combined with the seemingly impenetrable Azzuri defense to knock us out in the round of 32 (that and an embarrassing loss to a team I shall not name).

After '06, I made a plan with Sean, aka Seamus, aka Pinkus McGee, to save up and go to the 2010 games together. Sadly, a number of complications prevented this plan from reaching fruition. Even if we'd managed to save the money and keep things on track, I'd be prevented at from traveling halfway around the world at this stage by the impending birth of my daughter, but I still have a little sadness to not be in S. Africa with one of my best friends (Seamus, I'm thinking of you every moment of this).

Which brings us to my final point. Amy works for Madame Toussauds. Yes, they're a British company, and yes, many of their senior managers in the states are British. But this, on an iconic stretch of Americana, hours before one of the biggest games in US international soccer history, is simply unforgiveable.

Therefore, I am mounting a campaign to boycott Madame Toussauds. I hope you will join me.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Fire Drill

When Amy went to the Doc on Thursday for her checkup, they told her she was 2cm dilated and 70-80% effaced. "See ya back in a week... if you make it that long!" A delivery last week would have put her about 2 weeks early, well within the normal window.

On Friday, her contractions were regular enough that I decided to cut out of a major work event 4 days early and come home. The last plane from Phoenix to LAS leaves at 9:15, and the first in the morning is at 6:00am. Didn't seem like it was worth risking, so I changed my flight, bid the team farewell, and headed home.

All day Saturday, contractions were regular, but not strong. On Sunday, they were both. But it seems that the little lady may be a bit of a prankster, because this morning the contractions, while strong, were few and far between.

I guess that's my own karma. A prankster of a daughter, already seeing how much attention she can get with just a little tease. I'm home now, and will be for the duration. I'm just eager to meet this little troublemaker, so she'd better not end up being 2 weeks late and getting here on the 4th of July...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bonus Schmonus

I'm not going to dwell on the AIG bonus debacle, per se. Because the real issue isn't the fact that a bunch of people who played roulette with other people's money and lost are now being compensated for it. The issue isn't the absurd claim that only the people who got AIG into its current mess are the only ones who know how to get us out, or even that those same people are in no small part responsible for for our current mess by enabling companies to take unreasonable risks by insuring credit default swaps. I'm not even sure the deregulation of the banking industry that allowed all of this to take place is the issue.

As I see it, the true problem continues to be overlooked.

No, the real issue we should be discussing, and the fact that has avoided almost all scrutiny, is the fact that no one seems to be willing to ask the thorny questions, and so we're being run over day after day.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when a household was able to survive comfortably on a single income. Conservatives, in particular, love to hearken back to those halcyon days of traditional values when fathers worked, women stayed home, children were raised in bliss, and gay people were afraid to come out of the closet. And in those bright and golden times, say, 1950, the average ratio of executive-average compensation in America was just about 20-1.

Now, it's true that we've moved away from the economy of those times. That economy was in no small part based on an industrial and manufacturing base, whereas our current (or most recent) economy is (was?) based primarily in our financial sector and a service economy. But that can't possibly explain the trend of the last 30 years.

In 1980, the average CEO earned 42 times the amount that Joe Blow took home from the same company. In 1990, that ratio had more than doubled, reaching 107-1. By 2000, the rate of stratification had increased until the ratio reached a whopping 525-1. The numbers have shrunk slightly since, but the most recent numbers show that the average CEO beats out his/her average employee by a rate of 364-1.

Admittedly, the CEO of Wal-Mart or Target is going to make a hugely larger salary than the average cashier, and rightly so. And, for the most part, CEOs deserve a high compensation relative to the average employee. But the shamelessness of this is surpassed only by the degree to which we've been willing to swallow such rampant disparity. Where was the outrage 3 years ago when the outgoing CEO of ExxonMobil took with him a golden parachute totaling more than $400 million in overall compensation? Where were the questions as CEO pay exploded while average salaries grew slightly, stagnated, or, in the last 8 years, shrank?

Can we really cry foul so loudly now, when we were virtually silent for years of abuse? How can we pretend to be so outraged now over bonuses when those same bonuses, and ones much more egregious, were being paid year after year without a peep from the concerned masses? The argument that "taxpayer money is subsidizing bad behavior" rings absolutely hollow. Our money has been subsidizing these bonuses all along, in the form of lower and lower relative compensation and benefits for the average employee, the usurous policies devised and enabled within the upper eschalons of these corporations, the repeated destruction of shared wealth caused by the collapse of an Enron, an AIG, a Lehman Bros., and the added burden on average Americans as the Bush tax cuts allowed these bad actors to keep a larger portion of their bonuses and earnings that at any other point since the income tax was established (Tax rates now, even if raised to proposed level of 39.5% at the top bracket, are dwarfed by those of the past. Under Reagan, "wealthy" americans paid 50%. Under Nixon it was about 71%. Under Eisenhower, a whopping 91%).

Every few years, there is some extreme example of greed run amok. Whether it was the savings and loan scandals of the 80s, the overzealous rush and push into tech stocks in the late 90s, the deregulation of California's energy industry that led to the Enron collapse, or our current debacle, the outrage remains targetted, misdirected, and generally short lived. In the end, no one raises the true questions that lie at the base of the problem. Why have we come to settle so easily for a world in which the very few earn hundreds of times what the average worker brings home? How does it benefit society at large to allow this type of stratification to continue unabated? Why are we willing to silently bear the added weight when millions of people are forced into the corners of the system and the taxpayer foots the bill so that CEO compensation and stock prices can continue to rise? And why are we unwilling to ask the real questions and demand the real answers, settling instead for pitchfork and torch bearing riot mobs that are grossly and intentionally misdirected every time a scandal erupts?

Until we wake up and realize that it is not the culture of corruption, the stream of wreckless choices, repeated tries at deregulation, or even the egregious stratification of wealth that has us pinned down, we'll stay right where we are. It's not the Bernie Madoffs, the or the Ken Lays, or the Wal-Marts or Bear Stearns of the world that are to blame for our repeated and continued inability to maintain a just system. Our own unwillingness to ask tough questions, demand real answers and maintain pressure until changes are made is what is to blame. Most of us would rather watch back to back to back to back to back NCAA basketball games than educate ourselves about fiscal policy, and god forbid we should stick our necks out to ask a question. So before we play judge, jury and executioner for a group of bonus recipients at AIG who were only repeating a violation they've made year after year, ask yourself what you ever did to prevent it from happening. Sure, integrity is what we do when no one's looking. But how can we blame people for breaking the rules of common decency when we see them violating our social contract, then simply look away?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Brain Drain?

Below is a link to a fabulous article on President Obama's plan to cap the compensation available to executives at banks that receive Federal Bailout funds.

The thing that's great about this article is that it flatly calls out those who oppose this plan in the clearest and best way - by contrasting their stance on executive/corporate welfare recipients with their stances on public welfare recipients. Calling out the obvious hypocracy of the Republican't party is something that we've been all to afraid to do in the past, and it's why a progressive agenda is routinely hijacked by the superior and ruthless discipline of the right wing. This article does that. It shows, with relative clarity, the pure hypocracy of the opposition to this common sense measure.

The one thing it fails to do, however, is draw the obvious conclusion as to why these folks would support the onerous burdens placed on the standard welfare recipient but oppose even the most reasonable restrictions on compensation for corporate welfare recipients (and seriously, does anyone think these folks deserve to be making more than $400,000 per year with what they've done?). While you can argue that it's a race thing, black and brown folk on welfare versus white folk in the board room, you'd be missing the point. Yes, it's a color thing, but that color is green. A recent article showed that bailed out banks spent more than $100 million (yes, you read that right) lobbying congress last year. While certainly there's a large chunk of that spent on high-powered lobbying firms' services, there's another large chunk going into campaign coffers. I doubt too many folks on welfare were able to lobby Congress last year.

My final comment, and something I wish this article expanded on, is the comment by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), regarding the threat of a so-called "brain-drain" at these institutions. Sen. Bennett believes that capping corporate compensation will mean that top executives will leave these banks for work in fields where their earning potential is unlimited, leaving the banks to wallow without quality leadership (and doubtless this will be echoed in the Republican't spin chamber).

Let's ignore, for a moment, the fact that executive compensation is currently at near feudal level as compared to average employee compensation, outpacing historical levels by double and triple-digit multiples. Let's ignore the ridiculous concept that anyone NEEDS to make more than $400,000 per year. Let's simply focus on where we are, and how we got here. The current economic cataclysm was conceived, gestated and birthed by bankers obsessed with the potential profits of subprime loans, and then nurtured and coddled in these very boardrooms, where those self-same bankers created complex and convoluted systems to support their monstrous creations. Blinded to the long term risks of their investments by the seemingly endless earning potential, this "brain-trust" of Sen. Bennett's imagining abandoned their responsibilities to their shareholders and the larger society in a feeding frenzy of greed. Like sharks, they smelled blood in the water and whipped themselves into a frenzy, and, like sharks, were too literally shortsighted to see beyond the churning water to realize that the water was churning because a very large propeller was backing into the feeding frenzy. Now, the sharks want to flee ahead of the propellor, leaving us in it's path, but still carrying off as much as they need to fill their already bloated bellies.

It was the housing market collapse that destroyed the credit markets, dashed the dreams of millions of honest home buyers, and brought the entire global economy to its knees. Now Senator Bennett and his ilk are concerned about brain-drain at these institutions? Correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds like we're worried that the Captain of the Titanic won't come back to pilot a sister ship if we dock his pay until he gets it safely to port. Pull the lever, I say. Let the sacred brain trust at the head of these banks out with the shitwater that we're all living in because of their mismanagement and greed. If we're gonna get slashed, it's only reasonable to expect their lifestyle to be reduced from outlandish to simply extravagant.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Not much changing, really. Just the title, as neither my candidate nor I can accurately be described as "On the Trail."

I've got some personal commentary about the end of things, and the next phases, but I'm going to save it for a later time. For now, I'll launch this newly retitled entity with my first political commentary in a good, long time. If you like what I have to say, pass it on to your friends. If you don't, pass it on to your friends and mock me ceaselessly. Either way, pass it on to your friends.