Monday, February 23, 2009

Can I Get You Anything, Senator? Your Hat & Coat, Perhaps?

© 2009 Leighann Lord

His chief of staff quit on Friday. President Obama supports an investigation. The Congressional Budget Office called Kinkos and put Senator Roland Burris’ new business cards on hold. The much beleaguered Senator is catching a major case of the beltway brush off.

He is being asked to resign for not disclosing the contact he had with advisors of former Governor Blago. Given the troubled history of the Senator’s appointment, it would seem even the slightest appearance of impropriety cannot be tolerated. But did we all suddenly forget from whence Mr. Burris hails?

Presidents Lincoln and Obama notwithstanding, aren’t we supposed to grade Illinois politicians on a curve? They get an asterisk next to their names like steroid-filled baseball players. Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s home run record – nudge, nudge, wink, wink; insert asterisk here.

As a native New Yorker I enjoy the same leeway when it comes to jay walking. I know if I were stopped by a police officer in another city for exercising my birth right, he’d take one look at my New York State drivers license, beg my pardon and tell me to have a nice day. Right?

Senator Burris should ride out the storm, at least until they change the locks on his office door. Unemployment benefits are okay, but a Senator’s pension is better. This tough economic environment is not the time to go job hunting. Even if he scores an interview, he’ll have a hard time answering the question why he left his last job. It’s doubtful Congress will give him a reference.

If all else fails, he can use the Michael Phelps/A-Rod defense: “I was young and stupid.” Maybe the Senator even has an unnamed cousin he can throw to the investigative wolves.


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Mayors To Get Called Out

© 2009 Leighann Lord

"President Barack Obama warned the nation's mayors on Friday that he will ‘call them out’ if they waste the money from his massive economic stimulus plan." I think the President’s idealism has finally gone too far. You gotta leave some room for waste. What’s a political financial plan without a little mismanagement, graft and theft? The retail industry calls it shrinkage.

President Obama warned the Mayors that America is watching. The American people want and deserve transparency. Transparency is nice. Receipts are better. "You spent how much? I can get that cheaper. I got a guy."

The problem is waste is subjective. My Husband looks in my closet, sees five black handbags and thinks it’s wasteful; handbags to nowhere. I see five different bags that are used for five very different occasions; complete on the ground functionality. Money well spent.

What’s truly important here is that President Obama is using the good old fashion power of shame. If we’re lucky, this concept will cross over to reality TV programming. (Who’s the idealist now?) He will "call them out." And for the record, getting "called out" is not a good thing. Shout out: good; call out: bad.

Our current financial crisis has brought us a lot of outages, so let’s review:

Free Marketeers wanted the Government to butt out, until they found out they were down and out. Then they asked for a bail out, essentially demanding the government put out. Everyday people feel the fall out. Foreclosures make it hard to hold out. Banks take tax dollars and still tell home owners to get out. States need help to pull it out. The President spoke out and spelled it out: "Do it right or you’ll get called out." The time has come to work it out. Peace Out.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Perfect Bag Part 3

Thou Shall Covet Thy Neighbor’s Purse
© 2008 Leighann Lord

My pursuit of The Perfect Purse is not limited to the retail arena. I keep an eagle eye out in the field as well. I am constantly sizing up, appraising, and assessing what other women are using to tote around their necessities.
If I want more details a sincere "Hey nice bag!" is enough to get a woman talking; and most are quite forthcoming. Occasionally a selfish chic will hold out and won’t tell me where she bagged her bag. She may even try to throw me off by telling me she procured her purse in another country. That doesn’t phase me. Unless she found it in another dimension, I’ll track it down. Even then, I’m a sci-fi fan. I’ll work it out.

My friend Khumura has a great bag: Big, black, zip top, contrasting interior, multiple roomy inner and outer compartments. I damn near cried. The bag was HOT. I was sprung. If I were a different kind a woman – more in touch with my dark side – I would have indulged in a little selective bag snatching. What’s a mugging between friends?

Imagine my surprise when Khumura called and offered to "give" me The Bag. "Stop playing!" I said. "Are you serious!?!"

"I haven’t used it in forever," she said. "I remembered how much you liked it so if you want it, you can have it."

"If" I want it? It was all I could do not to drive to her house right then and there. Oh, if only my transporter was fully functional. It sounded too good to be true. Why would anybody give up such a great bag? Why not hold on to it "just in case."

But my friend Khumura is a true minimalist. Her home is beautiful, open, airy and extremely uncluttered. Unlike me, she doesn’t hold onto things she’s not using. My inner pack rat doesn’t fully comprehend this. I imagine it’s how highly evolved human beings live in the future where there’s no war, disease or public storage facilities.

When I picked up The Bag from her (a respectable 21 hours and 31 minutes later) it was even better than I remembered: Solidly stitched sturdy leather straps, reinforced outer bottom corners, snap closures on the outer pockets. I reveled in my unexpected good fortune but I wondered how in the world my friend could part with such a perfect and sexy specimen of a bag. But alas, it’s The Perfect Bag for me, not her. She was gracious enough to know that and let it go. I am grateful and I commend her.

I am also inspired. Maybe there should be some sort of organized bag swap; a time, place, and space where women bring bags currently languishing under beds and in the backs of closets. The bag I despise, another woman might love. A bag could find it’s true owner and a woman could find her Perfect Purse. Wow, is it getting warm in here or is it just me? Okay, somebody out there needs to host a Handbag Exchange Party. Any takers?

In the mean time, my best advice is: if you see something, say something. Don’t be shy. If you really like someone’s bag, tell them. That sincere compliment, coupled with a longing look, could plant the seed that someday brings you and beloved bag together.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I’ve Gleaned So Far About The Stimulus Plan

Get Ready To Put Out
© 2009 Leighann Lord

Okay, I was tired of people telling me what’s in The Stimulus Package so I decided to read it for myself. I’m an intelligent woman, a college graduate with a degree in English. How hard could it be?

In the age of serious scholarly research I went to Google and typed in "Stimulus Package." Google came back with, "Did you mean ‘The Economic Stimulus Plan?’" I said, "Yes." And Google said, "Are you sure?" Instead of the actual text of the plan, Google first gave me a lot of statistics, as if trying to ease me into it.

When The Stimulus Plan left the House of Representatives, it was clocking in at a jaunty 1,788 pages. For a bit of perspective, "War and Peace" – the longest novel in literary history – is 1,463 pages and is only slightly less boring. The Bible (in it’s many incarnations) is not as long but has probably saved more people. The longest "Harry Potter" novel, "Order of the Phoenix," is 870 pages. An entertaining read, even at the full retail price of $29.95. The Stimulus Plan that left The House retailed at more than $800 billion. That’s a lot of muggle money.

Everyone I talk to seems genuinely surprised that anybody would actually try to read the Stimulus Plan. But why wouldn’t I read it? It’s my money. But it begs the question, who’s curling up with this three and a half ream tome? I haven’t seen any pictures or You Tube video of our Congressional representatives pulling bleary-eyed all nighters trying to get through it. I can’t say that I blame them. It’s not as easy to read and understand as the Tax Code.

Try as I might, I have yet to luck into any Stimulus Plan Cliff Notes, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and have been helpful. I am incrementally closer to understanding the big picture issues. The Republicans want to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes. The Democrats want to do it by spending money.

Cutting taxes seems like a good idea. As someone who works for herself, pays her own social security, and forks over state and federal quarterlies, a little relief is long over due. But what tax cuts do they have in mind? Property tax, inheritance tax and luxury tax cuts only helps someone who has property, inheritance or luxury. We need tax cuts on the basics: food, clothing, shelter, transportation and shoes; pretty shoes, preferably size eight.

Spending money seems like a good idea, too. This is the theory behind dating. Guys spend money on Girls in the hopes that something good will come of it. Free dinner and drinks can indeed be very stimulating. This is why as a young woman on the dating scene, my Dad always insisted I "Go Dutch"; not just to protect my virtue but to be, as he put it, "Respectful of the guy’s pocket."

"Ask yourself where he’s getting the money to spend on you." Good question.

Where is the government getting the money to spend on us? I guess some it comes from my taxes, but if that’s the case, why don’t I just keep it instead of giving it to the government? Doesn’t stimulus begin at home? But tax revenues aren’t enough, not with the likes of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner and former Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle holding out. Perhaps a Washington DC-wide audit would yield all the money we need. With interest and penalties, we could have a surplus.

In the meantime, we have to borrow the money we need. Enter the Chinese. China has graciously been purchasing U.S. Treasury Bills; not the Bernie Madoff brand – at least I hope – but the real thing. Is it wise to stimulate the economy with borrowed money? It assumes that we’ll all be stimulated enough to put out — I mean, pay it back. I’m not an economic expert but that theory hasn’t worked out so well with my Visa Bill. It’s a debt monkey on my back that is growing swiftly into an 800-pound gorilla. I’m not feeling so much stimulated as bogged down.

This may not be within the government’s purview, but I’d like to see a moratorium or a roll back on usury level credit card interest rates. That’s something that could really help people. Okay, I mean me, but I’m people too. If Congress has the power to confirm a tax-troubled Treasury Secretary, they can do something about my Visa bill.

The hope is that spending money on certain projects will create jobs. People with jobs spend money and pay taxes – Treasury Secretarys and unregistered lobbyists notwithstanding. But which projects? The "shovel ready" ones of course.

Ahh, construction. That could get a little expensive especially if you factor in the cost of delays, over runs, permits, graft, waste, theft and shoddy work with substandard materials that will have to redone sooner than expected or hastily repaired after a catastrophic accident because there was no money in the budget for regularly scheduled maintenance.

My eagerness to read the Stimulus Plan has been dampened as it makes it way through the Senate. Maybe Google was right. Maybe I’m not ready. I have that same queasy, inept feeling I had when I tried to do my own taxes. It’s humbling to admit when something is beyond you. I’m at least smart enough to hire a professional, someone I trust, to do my taxes.

We’re supposed to have people we trust (i.e., our elected officials) reading, understanding, improving and passing an economic stimulus plan that works. So it is my earnest hope that they stop arguing and start explaining. Help me and everyone else understand why they shouldn’t all be fired on the spot and replaced with the current and soon to be unemployed people who are all too painfully aware of what’s at stake.

As we’ve learned from Bernie Madoff, we can’t put all our investment eggs in one basket. Let’s have some tax cuts. Let’s have some spending. Let’s do both with responsibility and accountability. Let’s get people working. Let’s get some of those shovels digging. I’ll even do my part by putting on a cute outfit and strutting by a few of those new construction sites. This will be particularly fun if my Shoe Tax Credit comes through. No pork. Strictly Payless.

You may have noticed that this essay is a little longer than my regular fare. In terms of pages, however, it’s less than one quarter of 1 percent of The Stimulus Plan and, I hope, more enjoyable.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Where’s My Mouthpiece?

"Where’s my mouthpiece?" isn’t exactly the most feminine phrase I’ve ever uttered but a real lady – who prefers to keep her smile intact – won’t fight without one.

A mouthpiece is required equipment in my kick boxing and submission grappling classes, but it seems kinda silly to require something so obviously necessary. Even if you have a decent dentist and a comprehensive dental plan, why would you put your chompers at risk? There are probably a few hard core pugilists who are willing to take it on the jaw sans protection. This is admirable in theory. In reality, missing teeth aren’t all that sexy.