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    • Spring of a Down, by Stirling Newberry, Chapters 1-3
      я знаю місце1 (Read the Prolog) She looked out over the land coming spring. Rather than domes and spires of Kyiv, here there were roofs to keep the hearth warm. But was forward to the eye was the fuzziness of the trees because the buds were forming across a flat plain. Life bloomed, over and above the plains north of the capital the river flow in.2 She turns […]
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Summer Reading: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Oh, stop your whining.  You won’t have to write a paper or anything.  (hmmm, maybe that’s only meaningful to the users here who have kids in school.)

Stieg Larsson, Swedish journalist turned thriller/mystery writer, created a fascinating character in the shape of a spritely, stinging, punk avenging angel named Lisbeth Salander.  He got off 3 books out of a proposed 10 in the Millenium series before he died of a massive coronary caused by years of heavy smoking, proving that nicotine truly is the most evil substance on the planet.

The Girl Who Played With Fire is the sophomore success to Larsson’s debut The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Run, do not walk to the nearest bookstore and buy the sucker.  If you haven’t read the first one, you’ll be doubly blessed this summer as you kick back on the beach with your SPF 50 and cooler full of beer.  We won’t see book three until some time in 2010 but there is plenty in these two books to chew on like Swedish granola.

The Millenium series revolves around two characters: Mikhail “Kalle” Blomqvist, investigative journalist exposing the nasty, sexist underbelly of Sweden’s cool exterior, and Lisbeth Salander, the twenty something computer hacker extraordinaire with the obsessively private personality.  Blomqvist and Salander’s last adventure has made her rich beyond her wildest imaginings and she disappears for 2 years to travel the world, while Blomqvist and his business partner and part time lover, Erika Berger, delve into the seemy depths of the sex trade.  When one of their contract investigative journalists working on the importation of sex slaves from the former eastern bloc countries is executed in his apartment, newly returned Lisbeth Salander becomes the prime suspect.  It’s Blomqvist’s task to put the missing pieces together to exonerate her without much help from the decidely unhelpful Salander as she goes on the run and communicates with him by hacking into his computer at night.

Larsson’s Millenium series is part mystery and part commentary on society’s uneasy relationship with women.  Mikhail Blomqvist is the ideal man- for both men and women.  He’s a Matt Taibbi type who has the suave and debonnair touch of a James Bond.  Women want to sleep with him because he respects them and treats them like adults.  In fact, maybe Larsson just wanted to suck in as many readers as possible but most of Blomqvist’s lovers are women in their forties, independent and with highly developed erotic personalities.  Jeez, it makes me want to move to Stockholm.  Salander represents a new generation of women who’s not partial to one sex or another.  She uses sex to get the little amount of intimacy she allows herself to experience.  But it is Larsson’s uncanny knack of getting into the heads of men and revealing what they really think about women that feels just about right.  His characters are not politically correct.  The sex trade gangs reduce their victims to a collection of human parts, police commissioners make no attempt to disguise their contempt for their female subordinates and Salander’s colleagues at the security company she works for cavalierly expose women’s private lives for money.

Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza would be right at home in Larsson’s world.  Several reviewers have remarked that the book loses momentum in the middle while the interested parties begin their investigation of the crime.  But those of us who are tuned into how the media works will immediately recognize that Larsson has laid out the anatomy of a media smear campaign, directed at a woman with few allies and all for the purpose of sensationalizing and money making.  The life of the character in question, her hopes and dreams and even the most sensitive details of her personal life are exposed to the world to the point where the media image is unrecognizable to the character herself.  Larsson shows that you don’t have to be a member of a sex trade gang to brutally dehumanize a woman.  It can be done with the flick of a pen.

Highly recommended.

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Dana Milbank says Hillary should drink “Mad Bitch” beer

Seriously.  From Peter Daou / ConsiderThisNews:

Just like last year.  Now all we need is the Failbots:

Sexism, what sexism?  Hillary IS as mad bitch!


But what about the racism? Bill Clinton said “fairy tale!”

I’ll betcha Milbank doesn’t get fired for this, but I bet he would be unemployed if he suggested Obama should drink (racially offensive term) beer.

Why is sexism more acceptable than racism?

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Wednesday: We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck

Yesterday, The Onion put out another one of those “soon-to-be-classic” headlines: Nation Ready to be Lied to About Economy Again.  I find myself identifying with this guy who was quoted in the article:

“I don’t need to be constantly reminded that the lack of regulations on Wall Street compounded with failing institutions like AIG basically plunged the world economy into a global recession,” said 32-year-old office manager Alexis Harrington. “What I want is for someone to tell me with a straight face that the GDP is through the roof so that I can feel better and instantly forget what all these terms even mean.”

“For the first time in my life I know who the secretary of the treasury is,” Harrington continued. “And I don’t like it.”

Yes, indeedy, I know more about money than I ever wanted to and if I had any inkling that I would have to wade through this muck in my hipwaders I would have been swilling grain spiked beer every night with the rest of the business majors back in my college days.

Never fear!  According to Dana Milbank, our PBO is on the case.  Everything is all cool and groovy.  We don’t need to worry:

Yesterday’s news was good — almost supernaturally so.

The economy? Recovering.

The markets? Rallying.

Swine flu? Abating.

Drought? Ending.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared his confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are well secured. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee declared his confidence that a massive health-care overhaul will be accomplished this year. Warren Buffett declared his confidence that the economy is “out of the quicksand.” And the Supreme Court was confident enough about the state of the nation to turn its attention to Janet Jackson’s breasts.

Call it good policy, as Democrats do, or beginner’s luck, as the last remaining Republicans do, but you can practically hear the nation collectively exhaling.

Well, I know I feel better except for:

  • The ex has been laid off making me the only working parent
  • The BFF and I are waiting to see if the research industry still has any interest in employing American scientists.  His company is merging and plans to lay off thousands; mine has a new CEO who has decided to slash research by 50%.  We should know this summer whether we still have jobs.
  • My brother was so afraid of being laid off he joined the army full time and moved 1500 miles away.
  • Another relative has been told by the major health insurer that she works for that it is dropping spouses from their own health insurance policies.  It will now cost an extra $500/month to cover him.  No, she isn’t getting a raise to cover it.
  • My favorite aunt, whose deceased husband used to work for a GM subsidiary, is waiting to see if her retirement benefits are going to be slashed.  She’s not exactly wealthy in the first place and this could really do her in.
  • Another aunt’s family furniture business has had to layoff long time, loyal employees because no one is buying sofas.  The business is really hurting.

So far, the only person *not* suffering is my mom, the Armageddon specialist, who is sitting on a big-old wad of cash and two pensions my dad left her. We are all planning to move in with her.

What does the Obama administration take us for?  Are we supposed to look around at all this misery and lowered standard of living and blame ourselves for what is happening?  All these people brought this on themselves?  They are responsible for losing jobs and insurance and pensions?  These are just the people *I* know personally in my own family.  Multiply this over and over again.  Believing in sweet little lies is not an option anymore.

There is one bright spot in this scenario, however.  It is a cautionary tale involving Jon Corzine.  Let’s put aside the fact that he sold us out at the convention, for which we have video evidence that I will happily play over and over again for any Hillary primary voter in NJ.  No, there are other reasons to fry Corzine’s ass.  He is the Obama prototype.  He vowed to do something about our insane and regressive property tax system when he took office.  And it’s not like there weren’t plenty of options.  Pennsylvania, which is right next door, isn’t forcing seniors out of their homes by yearly tax increases.  They have a combination of taxes that pay for stuff.  But no, Corzine didn’t want to hike income taxes on big business or on the uber wealthy in Bergen county.  He didn’t have the courage to impose an occupation tax.  And the only sales tax he implemented was one on iTunes purchases.  Theoretically, my taxes decreased by something like 20% since he took office.  But my property taxes, the only ones that count, go up anyway.  I am back to the same mortgage payments I had before I refinanced several years ago.  Go figure.

And all of this happened while he had a Democratic majority in the statehouse.  What was stopping all of them from getting together and making some tough decisions that rebalanced the tax burden from the poor to the rich?  Meanwhile, the economy is falling apart and there are a ton of finance people employed on Wall Street who commute to work from their homes in NJ.  They are losing their jobs.  Then there are the multitude of research people who for some reason the former CEO of Goldman Sachs governor continues to overlook.  NJ is home to major pharmaceutical and biotech research and Corzine has the gall to send out a campaign fundraising appeal letter to us happily announcing that Jack Welch has praised him for a job well done in NJ.  Our schools are underfunded, the pension system is a mess, our taxes too high and we’re supposed to feel good that cut-throat, uber salesman, social darwinist extraordinaire Jack Welch is high-fiving the governor.

Well, it’s all coming back to bite Corzine in the ass.  The NYTimes reports today that he is trailing one of his Republican challengers, former US Attorney Chris Christie.  In a latest Quinnipiac poll, Corzine is polling even with the *other* Republican in the race who is a typical GOP nutcase.  Think about that for a sec: New Jerseyans would *almost* prefer a flat taxing, pro-lifer to Corzine right now.  Never fear, Corzine’s team is planning to mess around with the Republican primary so the weakest primary candidate gets nominated.  Well, it’s not like his team has no experience with manipulating primary results.  Have you seen this video?  It’s our governor giving a big middle finger to every Hillary primary voter in NJ last year.  I mean, she only won this state by 10 points and didn’t manage to get even one single delegate.  Yes, I intend to keep bringing it up until everyone gets it.  No, I won’t get over it. I am mad as Hell that Corzine cavalierly disenfranchised me and millions of other New Jersey voters.  We didn’t give him permission to do that.

So, let this be a lesson to sunny, optimistic Barack Obama.  He has every opportunity in the world now to fix the economy for the working class, which would include all of us who do NOT work on Wall Street.  He’s got solid majorities in the House and Senate.  If he chooses to take a hands off approach on bills that would lower the principle on primary mortgages for example, or protect pensions or help Americans afford healthcare, he’s in for a rude awakening in 4 years when the rest of the country, like NJ, decides they’re sick of the happy talk from politicians with connections to the banking industry.

We might be slow but we’re not stupid.

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