#MeToo Meets the Cold Outside

It seems to make little or no difference where on the sexual-harassment continuum bad behavior falls.To Kirsten Gillibrand, fellow senator Al Franken’s sophomoric joking was as egregious as any act committed by the career criminal currently occupying the White House. Her unrelenting demand that Franken resign resulted in the loss of an intelligent legislator who came to hearings well-prepared and knowledgeable. (Remember his questioning of Attorney General appointee Jeff Sessions?)

Christmas 2018: radio stations around the country have removed the perennial winter song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their holiday playlists. #MeToo proponents have labeled it the “date-rape song,” as the lecherous guy tries to convince his lady visitor to stay with him so he can continue with his despicable intents.

I first heard the song in the early sixties. My father brought home an LP titled Beauty and the Beard by New Orleans trumpet-player Al Hirt. The album featured Hirt singing duets – no holiday songs– with Ann-Margret, including “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (Ann-Margret reprised her performance thirty-eight years later with Brian Setzer on his Boogie Woogie Christmas album.)

Songwriter Frank Loesser won an Academy award in 1949 for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” featured in the movie Neptune’s Daughter. In the film Ricardo Montalban appeals to Esther Williams to stay with him, arguing that the weather is too snowy for her to leave. What seems ironic in today’s milieu, the song was a replacement for the tune “I’d Love to Get You (On a Slow Boat to China).” MGM censors interpreted “get” as “have,” meaning sex and would not allow it.

Ms. Williams appears to be able to make her own arguments and reach her own decision. While coy, the woman is in control here.

The song has been recorded by dozens of artists: Ray Charles & Betty Carter, Steve Lawrence & Edie Gorme, Bette Midler & James Caan, Lou Rawls & Dianne Reeves, Suzy Bogguss & Delbert McClinton, Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, LadyGaga & Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Willie Nelson & Norah Jones… well, you get the idea. (Later versions of the song found various replacements for the line, “Well, maybe just a cigarette more.”)

If you want to be outraged, try this 1962 recording, devoid of innuendo – that  could be titled “Ode to Harvey Weinstein,” – by Kay Martin & Her Bodyguards, from the album I Know What He Wants For Christmas… But I Don’t Know How to Wrap It! 

So Much Winning: Turkeys

If you liked the price you paid for your Thanksgiving turkey, the lowest in a decade, you’ll probably be happy with what you’ll likely pay for a Christmas/Solstice bird. Turkey prices are averaging $1.46 per pound, the cheapest since 2008. You can thank the current occupant of the White House.

Food prices, generally over the past couple years, have increased much more slowly than the general rate of inflation. Turkey prices in particular, have decreased. This is largely due to the lower price of feeding them. Remember those tariffs? (“Trade wars are good, and easy to win.”) In retaliation, the Chinese have stopped buying soybeans from the U.S., eliminating a major market. As a result, farmers are letting crops rot in their fields rather than pay to store surplus output. So turkeys are cheap…

… unless you want to eat turkey with some flavor, unlike ones that were raised in crowded enclosures, fed antibiotic-laced, genetically-modified soybeans, are so heavy-breasted they can’t support their own weight or mate naturally. If you enjoy so-called “heritage” birds, then you almost certainly are paying a record high price this year. The demand for free-range, naturally-raised heritage breeds is increasing so fast, if you didn’t order one ahead of the holidays, you may be out of luck.

Personal aside: In my two decades living in Sonoma County, I was fortunate to have Willie Bird free-range turkeys close by.


Coming Soon to China: 1984

The People’s Republic of China, perhaps inspired by Google and Facebook and Amazon, is about to initiate a program rating all its 1.4 billion citizens. A person’s “social rating” score will determine how trustworthy one is. Transgressions such as a traffic infraction, a loan default, criticizing the government or not properly caring for one’s parents will deduct points from one’s score. The system will track hobbies, purchases and even who a person’s friends are. A low score will result in myriads of restrictions, from person’s job prospects, what schools children may attend, even access to restaurants or high-speed Internet.

Participation in the program is voluntary now; by 2020, every citizen will be required to enroll. But Chinese citizens are already finding themselves barred from air and rail travel because of their “untrustworthiness.” Continue reading “Coming Soon to China: 1984”

Climate Update

The day after Thanksgiving, while we were still semi-comatose from overindulging on food and family, the White House quietly released the latest report on the state of the world’s climate. Friday afternoon is typically news-dump day, a day for the government to release information it hopes few will read. (You can read it here.) The current occupant of the White House has already gone on record that he doesn’t believe it.

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One Hundred Years Ago Today

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 a quiet settled over the trenches of the Western Front, ending the four-year slaughter of the Great War. After nine million combat deaths, twenty-one million wounded and five million civilians killed, Germany signed an armistice agreement with France and Great Britain stopping the carnage.

Continue reading “One Hundred Years Ago Today”

Voter-Suppression Factoid

The state of Florida, home to retirees from around the country, voted Republican Rick Scott to two terms as governor. The irony is rich here, as Scott is still the record holder for Medicare fraud. Governor Scott, now running for U.S. Senate, knows that Republicans cannot win elections if everyone votes.

Continue reading “Voter-Suppression Factoid”