Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Predictions about the Clinton Presidency

Another thing I predict is that during Hillary's presidency Bill Clinton is going to be caught schtupping some bimbo. It will then be politically impossible for him to continue as an adviser and he will go back to New York. Without him in the White House, her administration will begin to stumble from one ill-advised fiasco to another. If Bill leaves during her first term she probably won't be re-elected. I think he will be caught with a bimbo sooner rather than later.

I further predict that if the main bimbo scandal (there will be several, but one will be more egregious and provable than the others) happens before midterm elections, the Republicans will win control of the House in 2010.

Indeed, no matter what she does she is going to become unpopular when the Iraq War doesn't have the nice clean end the Democrats implied they would be able to deliver. If she withdraws the troops and the al-Maliki government is defeated and replaced by a militantly anti-US one, she will be vastly unpopular. If the bloodshed and fighting in Iraq escalates after she withdraws the troops she will be unpopular. If she does not withdraw the troops and continues to attempt to stabilize and pacify Iraq she will be following the same policy that has made George Bush so unpopular. It will make her unpopular too, but even more so since she has run on being critical of the war.

Even an attempt to fall back to the position that she wasn't against the war per se but only against the incompetence of its prosecution, will fall flat. Bush has been careful to be seen to delegate the conduct of the war entirely to the military. The disingenuousness of Clinton's position will become immediately apparent the moment she is inaugurated. Does she really know better how to conduct a Middle Eastern war than General Petraeus? If her administration were to be seen to meddle in the conduct of the war or to reduce its funding, every casualty thereafter will be treated by the right as though Clinton had personally murdered that soldier.

I would love to believe that Bill Clinton will be able to again perform his miracle of charming the birds from the trees and resolving the war as a special envoy to a settlement conference. The limits of that approach were shown at Camp David when Clinton was unable to get Yasser Arafat to make good on what he had already agreed to at Oslo. With Middle Eastern primitives, charm and intelligence are not enough. Iraq is one tar baby that will not go away.

She will be in an even worse position than George Bush is in now. If the army were able to win the war in the remaining year of his presidency he could justifiably take credit for the victory. If the army were to win the war during her presidency, having run against the war, her claiming credit for the victory would be ridiculous. If her administration took the position, "See, we won where Bush couldn't", the anti-war people would feel betrayed and call her a hawk.

If the war were to be lost during her presidency after she had run against it, she would be politically dead, there and then, and permanently. If there were therafter a terrorist attack against the United States originating from Iraq, she would be impeached.

If she is as unpopular as I expect, the GOP will win control of congress in 2012 in any case. After four years of her administration instinctively reaching for the hardball and the stonewall, the GOP will reply in kind as soon as they have Congress. She may well be the second member of her family to be impeached.

I reiterate that I am not for or against any of this happening. It is just what I expect will happen.

More Italian Grammar

Apparently it is pronounced "Edwards-a".

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Italian Grammar and the Florida Primary

What is the past tense of "Giuliani"?

Old News Is Still News

Did you know that Scorpion once observed, "Dysfunctional relationship is a redundancy."?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why Haven't I Lost Interest in the Campaign Yet?

Because I enjoy each new revelation of as-yet unimagined levels of mendacity.

Various bloggers were described in the NYT as furious with Bill Clinton for having noticed not only that Obama is black but for having so much as implied that voters in South Carolina may have noticed it too. Black voters would vote for a brown paper bag and Clinton had the audacity to hint they would.

Humorously the question put to Jackson was whether he was offended by Clinton having mentioned that he had twice won the South Carolina Democratic primary. Can't get more offensive than that. Jackson, having had Clinton wipe the floor with him politically over the 1992 Sista Souljah remarks about killing cops, chose not to be offended.

In a year Barack Obama will be a half-remembered bump in the road on Bill Clinton's way back to the White House.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Madame President

Barack Obama all but pronounced himself president after winning the South Carolina primary yesterday. He got 55% of the vote. He seemed deaf to the fact that he got 78% of the black vote but only 20% of the white vote. I haven't seen it reported anywhere, but the numbers make it likely that Hillary Clinton got more white votes than Obama did and Edwards about as many.

Bill Clinton showed his political and intellectual superiority by setting out to use Obama's strengths against him. Bill casually observed that Jesse Jackson had won in South Carolina in both 1984 and 1988. Since Jackson never had any chance of winning the nomination let alone the election, that was a persuasive brushing aside of the South Carolina result. Put less politely, Clinton's observation was that any black politician would win the South Carolina Democratic primary, no matter how lame, so it didn't mean anything.

The remark also revealed the contradictory premises Obama is running on. He tells blacks they should vote for him because he's black, and he tells other voters his color doesn't matter, that he's a unity candidate. I think the endlessly shrewd William Jefferson Clinton has thought this through and the Clinton campaign is going to work on defining Obama as a black candidate.

In retrospect, that was the tactical significance over the seemingly idiotic controversy over whether Martin Luther King or Lyndon Johnson brought about the Civil Rights Act. Seen from a national point of view of course it was Johnson. Only from the narrower view of the politics of mobilizing black voters and marchers was it King. Obama fell right into the trap by claiming it was MLK rather than LBJ. Clinton got Obama to define himself as a black candidate, one who can carry South Carolina and no other state, a latter day Jesse Jackson. The white voters of South Carolina just demonstrated that Clinton's strategy is working.

I am sad to have to predict that the Democratic nominee and the next president will be Mrs. Clinton. The Clinton campaign will be more professional and organized, staffed by many of the same people that worked on the last two Clinton campaigns. The inspiration campaign Obama will have to rely on will be less effective. I predict too that if McCain is the GOP nominee, he will be a latter day Bob Dole and suffer the same fate.

I predict also that her presidencies will be the most polarizing and embittering since those of Abraham Lincoln, the most scandal-ridden since Harding. My reason for thinking so is that she has shown such ruthlessness in Democratic party politicsm and such smug self-righteousness, that her instinct will always to be to hardball and to stonewall. If she is the same in national politics, the Republicans will gladly reply in kind. If they regain control of congress in 2010, it is conceivable she will be the second Clinton to be impeached.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tell Me Again Why I Should Give a Damn About Hollywood Loser Scumbags?

Christian Brando dies at L.A. hospital

By ROBERT JABLON, Associated Press Writer 36 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES - Christian Brando, the troubled eldest son of the late famed actor Marlon Brando, has died from pneumonia at a Los Angeles hospital, an attorney said Saturday. He was 49.

Brando died Saturday morning at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, said David Seeley, an attorney representing Marlon Brando's estate.

Seeley said Brando was taken to the hospital on Jan. 11. There are no funeral plans yet scheduled, he added.

"This is a sad and difficult time for the family," Seeley said.

Born May 11, 1958, the younger Brando had small roles in a handful of movies, including 1968's "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!" but he was better known for his brushes with the law.

He spent five years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in 1990 for killing his sister's boyfriend, Dag Drollet, at the Brando family's estate.

Brando said he accidentally shot Drollet as they struggled for a gun during an argument over whether Drollet, 26, had beaten Brando's pregnant half-sister, Cheyenne.

Cheyenne, who later gave birth to Drollet's son, committed suicide in 1995 after losing custody. She was 25.

Brando's ex-wife, Deborah Brando, sued him for domestic violence in 2005. She claimed that shortly after their 2004 marriage, Brando repeatedly beat her and threatened to kill her in the presence of her teenage daughter.

Brando countersued, alleging that his ex-wife broke into his home and beat him because he wanted to annul their marriage only 10 weeks after exchanging vows.

The lawsuits were settled last year on undisclosed terms.

Brando was charged Jan. 10, 2005, with two counts of spousal abuse and he pleaded guilty. He was placed on three years' probation and ordered to drug and alcohol rehabilitation as well as a spousal-abuse prevention program.

Brando also was the one-time lover of Bonnie Lee Bakley, who was shot to death in 2001. At one time, Bakley claimed Brando had fathered her child but tests showed it belonged to actor Robert Blake, whom she later married.

Blake was tried for her murder and acquitted but later ordered to pay $30 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. During that civil case, Blake's lawyer suggested Brando was the killer.

Brando, who had denied any involvement, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on the stand during the trial.

Seeley said Brando was not married at the time of his death and did not leave any children.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Celebrity Confessions

I have relapsed into my addiction. Seven hours of the Australian Open today alone, ending at 3 am. But after Roger Federer beats the crap out of Nadal or whoever else is in the finals with him on Sunday, I will go into rehab. I promise.

What is a recession?

A recession is a smaller, shorter version of a depression. The technical definition is when the Gross Domestic Product declines for two consecutive quarters or longer.

The primary effect on ordinary people is that unemployment rises. The two reasons are that businesses lay people off because the market for their goods and services declines. They also stop hiring. People who have jobs are less secure in their jobs. Those who have secure jobs are less likely to get raises, or they get smaller ones. People are afraid to quit jobs because it may be much harder to get another one. Tax revenues fall so governments other than the Federal government have their budgets shrink and have to cut spending sharply because only the federal government may run a deficit. Counties, cities, and states can't. Since a lot of state spending is already mandated, often for schools and highways, the amount of the rest of the programs and the employees in them is generally cut sharply. Kids graduating fewer job opportunities. Pensions do not rise as fast as prices and have a built-in lag since adjustments are not made until the end of the year in which the price increases occurred. Business profits and investment opportunities shrink so the stock market tanks. (I have lost a quarter of my portfolio since October 11.)

When the unemployment rate goes above 7% (it is about 5% right now) the federal government adds an up-to-13 week extension to the amount of time one can draw unemployment benefits. Overall the nation becomes poorer. In practice that means that the overall cost of living becomes more expensive compared to the total amount of wages and salaries paid in the country. This can happen either by prices rising faster than wages and salaries, or by prices remaining stable while total wages and salaries fall. Because so much of ordinary people's spending is fixed ( i.e. non-discretionary -- rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, debt payments, medical, etcetera) a relatively small decline in real incomes produces a substantial decline in discretionary spending (going out to dinner, electronic toys, travel, presents, etcetera). Even if the percent decline in real income were the same for rich as for poor, the effect on the poor would be substantially greater because a much larger percentage of our incomes are non-discretionary spending.

In the current environment, it also becomes harder to spend even if one has the money. With their huge loan losses, lenders are going to make qualification standards much stiffer than they were last year so items like new cars and houses will become less available. Overall life becomes a little grayer, a little more limited.

My New Diet an Unexpected Success

Since October I have lost my ass. Unfortunately I lost it in the stock market. My main stock, an ETF (Exchange Traded Fund, i.e. shares based on an index mutual fund) named VXF (Vanguard Extended Market, i.e. the 4500 NYSE stocks not in the S&P 500) was 116 on October 11. This morning it opened at 86. You do the math. For the fraction-impaired, subtract the low number from the high number, divide by the high number, equals down-the-crapper.

The Fed's sharp rate cut this morning reduced what started as a large economic disaster to a moderate one. Still, disaster probably should not be the goal of government policy.

I have lost not only my money but my self-esteem as well. When the market was up, I was giving people pompous investment advice as though I knew what I was talking about. Now I am embarrassed to recall having done that. Sigh.

My other, Wellbutrin-fueled, diet has also had modest success. Since October I have shed a pants size, down from Boy-Are-You-Fat to mere Triple Enormous. Someone actually noticed the change without even being prompted. Needless to say I will cherish that person forever.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sneak Preview of Brazilian Independent Film

Alice’s House is just what a director’s first film should be – full of both flaws and promise. Several things are wonderful about the movie, foremost among them the luminous lead, Carla Ribas. She gives us a Brazilian reprise of Ann Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson, a compellingly sexually attractive woman of 40-something. The other actors are equally well-cast, well-directed, and persuasive. The writing and filming give us what seems an authentic feel of the daily life of ordinary people in Brazil.

Sadly the editing, and filming are not of the same quality as the casting and acting. The story, a tale of the decay and collapse of a dysfunctional family, may also be a metaphor of Brazilian society. But it is presented as one damned thing after another, with no development of any of the themes or issues raised, like a soap opera, which it eventually comes to resemble. The filming starts with closeup face shots, stays with closeup face shots, and ends with them. When they are shots of Carla Ribas it is hard to object but one soon says, “Enough already!”

Another difficulty is that most of the men are seen as mindless sonsofbitches while most of the women are seen sympathetically though all are equally adulterous and self-seeking. Another reviewer said that if the movie had been made by a woman it would have been dismissed as “shrill”. But political correctness is tedious no matter who the perpetrator is.

Alice’s House shows the downside of making movies with a miniscule budget – the second tier semi-technical people like editors, cinematographers, lighting people, were just not up to the level of the actors and director. For Chico Texeira to have done this good a film with so little support makes me look forward to his next film, which presumably will have more. And if Carla Ribas is reading this, please call me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Instant Movie Review

I saw 'Juno' over the weekend. Excellent witty dialogue throughout. Good acting. Two thumbs up.

Neat Stuff for Free

I have discovered the menu at upper left in Gmail (Google mail). Among the features there are 'Documents' and 'Calendar'. Documents includes slightly truncated versions of MS Excel, MS Word, and MS their presentation software. The Excel and Word clones contain more or less all the features anyone not working full-time in those applications would ever want. I don't know about the presentation software and don't care.

There are several large advantages the Google version of Office has over the Microsoft version. One is that it is free. MS Office costs $400. Another is that it is online. When your disk crashes, your computer is stolen or lost, or just not where you are, your spreadsheets and Word documents are still readily accessible. They are also password-protected if that matters to you. They are also shareable with anyone with a free Gmail account whom the user specifies. They can be shared as read-only, or shared with permission to edit or delete. The Google word processor also includes the comment feature. In theory one can do all these things with MS Office over a LAN, but in practice security and permissions makes it so cumbersome it never happens. Over the internet it is easy and global.

There is also a Calendar application which does much of what MS Outlook does, but in a better, more relational-database kind of way. I was confused at first that there seemed no way to code different appointments with different colors. I have since figured out that one creates additional calendars, each with its own color, and assigns each appointment to one of the calendars. One clicks the clickbox next to the calendar and it is displayed. Click several and several are displayed. Other calendars like national and Jewish holidays and phases of the moon are provided as well, as in Outlook. As with the other documents, calendars can be made viewable and or editable by specified Gmail users. In theory these sharings are for coworkers or supervisors and underlings. I think the calendar would work best for wives and husbands.

A feature that is not provided in Outlook is the weather calendar. Since at some point or another I must have entered my location, it shows the weather forecast for the next three days as icons of rain or sun. While it is easy to see how they do it, it is still way slick.

There is a bunch of other stuff as well, including 'maps' which is like Mapquest but faster and higher resolution.

Gmail is free but is available only by invitation from a Gmail account holder. One is permitted 50 invitations and the number renews every so often. I think this prevents it from being used as a way to publish spam.

If anybody is interested, write me at and I will invite you.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dead Pool 2008

Harvey's list

1. Britney-a no brainer
2. Musharif-ditto
3. Dan Rather
4. Dick Cheney
5. Barak Obama
6. O. BinLaden
7. Gloria Steinem
8. Lindsey Lohan
9. Paul Newman
10. Jimmy Carter


1. Bhutto - father
2. Bhutto - son
3. John McCain -- especially if the nomination is still undecided after Super Tuesday
4. Keith Richards
5. Jacques Chirac
6. George H. W. Bush
7. O. J. Simpson
8. Peter O'Toole
9. Fidel Castro
10 Muammar Khadafi

Sorry about so many Dying Hulks but I have not gotten many points lately.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Still Dead

In view of the unexpected results in Iowa, no one is talking about the expected results. Biden and Chris Dodd have both bitten the big one, folded their tents, called it a quadrennium and gone home. Sigh.