mm454: It’s going to take a liberal quantity of BOLD

July 31, 2008


© Michaeljung |

MUDGE’s Musings

We observe the first anniversary of the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis (August 1, 2007) with some sadness, and furious anger.

Sadness due to the thirteen lives lost, and 100+ injured.

Anger because the danger embodied in this country’s aging and dilapidated bridges, highways, levees and schools is criminally no closer to alleviation than 366 days ago.

Meanwhile, the economy is faltering: banks are failing, foreclosures are at record highs (three million empty houses!), the ranks of under- and unemployed growing apace.

What is it going to take to repair this country’s infrastructure osteoporosis?

What is it going to take to kick start the economy, to get people working and once again able to meet their mortgage obligations, perhaps even afford that $4.299/gallon gasoline?

It’s going to take a liberal quantity of bold.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm265: It’s a Bush administration; the wealthy get wealthier while the poor suck hind tit

January 25, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

The number crunchers are beginning to weigh in on the administration’s latest economic stimulus plan.

Can one really be surprised that the stimulus mainly impacts those who need it least?

Paul Krugman had the following observations in the NYTimes, and on his blog:

Stimulus Gone Bad

By PAUL KRUGMAN | Published: January 25, 2008

House Democrats and the White House have reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the plan — which essentially consists of nothing but tax cuts and gives most of those tax cuts to people in fairly good financial shape — looks like a lemon.

Specifically, the Democrats appear to have buckled in the face of the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity, dropping demands for provisions that would have helped those most in need. And those happen to be the same provisions that might actually have made the stimulus plan effective.

In his related blog (linked to in the Times, and full of a series of useful comments on the stimulus plan) he reproduces the chart that the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center created after analysis:


Predictable:the top 40% of income earners would get 58% of the proceeds. It’s just so typically wrong-headed. We’re headed toward rough seas; let’s take the motors off the lower-deck lifeboats, so that the upper deck lifeboats have two!

And the Democratic leaders in Congress, as has been typical for them since they assumed majority status after the 2006 elections, caved. No stomach for a fight, Ms. Pelosi? If not, you certainly are in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Krugman points out that getting money to people who really need it “does double duty: it alleviates hardship, and also pumps up consumer spending.”

The result: a program that isn’t helpful where most needed, and fails in its goal as an economic stimulus.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Stimulus Gone Bad – New York Times

You needn’t be a card-carrying curmudgeon to be disgusted.

I just love the FDR quote, at a time when spats-wearing plutocrats were desperately clinging to their customary piracy – er, business – as usual:

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”

When will it end, you ask? tells us: 360 days, 15 hours: Noon Eastern Standard Time, Tuesday, 20-January-2009.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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mm093: Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways – New York Times

August 2, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Now it can be revealed! MUDGE‘s deepest secret — I “read” audio books all of the time!

This story made the NY Times most emailed list today…


August 2, 2007

Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways


JANICE RASPEN, a librarian at an elementary school in Fredericksburg, Va., came clean with her book club a couple years ago. They were discussing “A Fine Balance,” a novel set in India in the 1970s by Rohinton Mistry and an Oprah’s Book Club pick, when she told the group — all fellow teachers — that rather than read the book, she had listened to an audio version.

“My statement was met with stunned silence,” said Ms. Raspen, 38.

Finally Catherine Altman, an art teacher, spoke up.

“I said that I felt like listening to a book was a copout,” Ms. Altman said. “I’m not like a hardcore book group person — a lot of times I don’t even finish the book. But my point was that she is a librarian and I thought it was pretty ridiculous. I’m a painter and it would be like me painting by numbers.”

The perennial disagreement in book groups has been over authors, with the single-malt drinkers arguing for F. Scott Fitzgerald and the chardonnay drinkers for Anita Shreve. But the latest schism in the living room lit-fests is not over whom they read, but if they read.

Is it acceptable, they debate within and among themselves, to listen to that month’s book rather than read it? Or is that cheating, like watching the movie instead of reading the book?

Because audio enthusiasts generally listen aloud in a private space like their cars or with headphones, they are spared having to publicly defend the format. When they join reading groups, however, they enter what can be enemy territory, where dyed-in-the-wool bibliophiles want to hear nothing of a book but the crack of its spine.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways – New York Times

I publicly admit that I indeed listen to books on tape (or, more recently, CD) almost every day.

I have a commute that can take more than an hour, especially the afternoon home-bound one, and I have been using books on tape to fill that mental vacuum caused by bumper-to-bumper traffic on a numbing 250 times per year route for more than a decade and a half, since an otherwise despised boss tipped me to their value in this application.

I formerly listened to FM broadcast radio, mainly our last classical station, but often some afternoon FM talk, in a Howard Stern vein (but not HS!). The classics are always soothing, but not always useful at distracting one from driving chores. Talk radio, at least in MUDGE’s neck of the woods, seems to consist of 10 minutes of snarky talk followed by 20 minutes of jangly commercials. Ugh.

Books on tape rescued me from the tyranny of the airwaves (this was before the availability of satellite radio, which might have changed my thinking had I not been locked down into b-o-t mode by the time Sirius and XM made the scene).

My criteria is rock solid: never, ever an abridgement. Ever.

Unabridged recorded books in the book stores are quite spendy, and I simply won’t spend double that of its hardbound equivalent for even the best of the best.

So, it’s our local public library for me. Not an unalloyed joy this, since our city fathers built a wonderful structure a few years ago (the third on the site in my lifetime in my town, which more than most reminders of my age hits quite hard), and the municipal edifice complex has left the library with a reduced budget for, what else, books. Sigh.

It’s finally, gradually, filling up, thank goodness, but the supply of books on cassette and more recently CD remain sparse, and odd. Nineteenth century classics are MIA. Barbara Taylor Bradford flourishes, two shelves worth. Sigh.

But, I persevere, hampered only a little by the limitation imposed on me by the lack of a cassette player built into my “winter” vehicle, which contains a CD player only. Sigh.

I remain resolutely happy with my choice of substance (even Janet Evanovich has more substance than brain-melting FM talk radio), and am not ashamed of my audio addiction.

Literature is literature, as far as I’m concerned, and most of the commercial product is performed, not just read, by professional actors. Try reading out loud sometime, and listen to yourself. Trust me, it takes a pro.

Do you really get as much out of a book if you listen instead of read?

“If the goal is to appreciate the aesthetic of the writing and understand the story,” said Daniel T. Willingham, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Virginia, then there won’t be much difference between listening and reading. “The basic architecture of how we understand language is much more similar between reading and listening than it is different.”

I rest my case. Reading is reading. Or, I suppose, listening is reading.

What’s MUDGE listening to at this time? “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, read by the wonderful George Guidall, a stalwart, ubiquitous and consummate professional in the business, whom I could be persuaded to listen to reading the Yellow Pages. Gaiman’s novel, which I am approximately 1/3 through as I write this, is unusual, and fascinating, and I’m really happy to be listening to/reading it.

By the way, I read cardboard and paper books also. Just started the terrific new “FDR” by Jean Edward Smith (borrowed from my son), and I’m serious about this: two bookmarks if you please, one for the narrative, the other for the 100+ pages of endnotes. Books on tape for MUDGE is purely an automotive addiction, like pumping gas. Out of the Camry or the Element, it’s the old fashioned black type on white paper for me.

What are you guys reading, or admit it, listening to?

It’s it for now. Thanks,