Sunday, November 30, 2008

More Outrage

The Lands End Christmas catalog has a picture of a skinny Santa Claus on the cover. Their excuse is that the guy is some schlemazzel celebrity whom no straight person has ever heard of.

I can safely promote myself as one who smells corrupt self-interest wherever the odor is to be found. But I suspect this is even crazier.

Americans are fat and getting fatter at what I am told is an alarming rate. From the point of view of a clothing company this is wonderful news. Fat people not only need larger clothes which cost more, but we need to constantly buy new clothes as we outgrow our old ones. So obviously one markets to this growing market segment, right? Wrong.

The fantasy promoted by the marketers is that if you buy their product that you will look like the hunk or babe shown wearing it. Their theory is that maybe you hadn't noticed that you have swelled up to the size of a Buick?

This fantasy is so strong and pursued so relentlessly (I wanted to write 'obdurately' there because it is a niftier word, but 'relentlessly' is more accurate.) that not even Santa Claus can be shown as fat. Even classic images embedded in our folklore and folkpoetry (visions of sugar plums, a bowlful of jelly) are trashed.

Santa is not supposed to have the assassin's lean and hungry look. He is supposed to be jolly. Fie upon Lands End, upon Madison Avenue, and upon capitalism generally, as the enemies of humanity.

Braindead in the Water

During the recent massacres of 170 or more people in India, the New York Times described the perpetrators as "militants". (They omitted to specify what they were militant about -- vegetarianism perhaps? or maybe pacifism?) This sat badly with hundreds of Indians who wrote to protest the Times' apologetic phrase.

Since Indians are neither Jews nor white, it is politically incorrect to countenance massacring them. This created a problem for the editors and writers of the Times. So the Newspaper of Record responded to the pressure. This is a considerable novelty for them.

The Times has for decades pointedly ignored Jewish protests of their murderers being described as Islamic concerned citizens or some such. But the massacre of non-Jews, especially of non-white non-Jews, could not be brushed aside so cavalierly. Something had to be done.

So the Times' editors and reporters fearlessly thought of yet another apologetic evasion. The former "militants" have become the even more sanitary "attackers".

Such is the Times' obdurate refusal to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, terrorists should be called "terrorists".

But the Times has to rely on reports from other news services, which generally are not as politically correct as the Times. The other news services do use the word "terrorism" to describe incidents of -- what shall I call it?, oh, say, for lack of a better word -- terrorism.

Apparently Indian news services were unwilling to have their reporting perverted and their people insulted. So the Times was obliged to use the word "terrorism". But not "terrorists". This is like admitting there is golf but refusing to admit the existence of golfers.

The surface absurdity that the Times has wrought for itself reflects their underlying intellectual dishonesty.

However, let it not be thought that the Gray Lady has relinquished their underlying refusal to report honestly. Their three page description and summary of the massacre of more than 170 people nowhere contains any reference to Islam, to Muslims, nor to Jihad.

Which means that their reporting leaves the event utterly inexplicable. It just happened. No reason is given. If the reader does not already know who the "attackers" were, or the reasons for the attack, she will not find out from reading the Times.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Neologism Discovered in Leaf Pile Behind House

It follows, does it not, that those not in office are excumbents?

And what is the deal with increments and excrements?

[John McCain enjoying his continued excumbency]

But the Fundamentals Are Sound - 2

From CNN Money Magazine today --
Home prices in the 10-city index have fallen for 26 consecutive months. The decline has broadened over the past 12 months, with prices dropping in every city of the 20-city index during September.

In the weakest market, Phoenix, the 12-month loss came to 31.9%. Las Vegas prices plummeted 31.3% and San Francisco recorded a 29.5% decline.

Foreclosures continue to take a heavy toll, with sales in some cities dominated by properties repossessed by banks and then put back on the market, often at bargain prices. In Las Vegas and Cleveland, for example, about half of all homes for sale are bank-owned properties, according to the real estate Web site,
Remember when "flush" was "with success", "with money", with five cards of the same suit?

Intuitively Obvious

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Bears

[the Axe]

beat Stanford in the Big Game today, 37 to 16.

Stanford ran away with the game in the first half, with enormous margins in yards rushing and in yards passing, but repeatedly turned the ball over or failed to score from close in. Once they marched the entire length of the field, got stopped in front of the goal line, then missed the field goal. In the last seconds of the first half, on fourth down and a foot to go for a touchdown, the Stanford coach chose to kick a field goal. Can the Cardinal eleven not have understood the lack of confidence in them?

It would seem they did. In the second half Cal ran all over them, scoring repeatedly, often on insolent trick plays. Jahvid Best, a sophomore, dodged and swerved through holes in the Stanford defense on his way to 200+ yards for the day. Stanford did their best to help Cal win by incurring stupid penalty after stupid penalty.

The Stanford Axe Committee had to turn over the Axe to the Cal Axe Committee on the sidelines at the closing whistle. Because of the history between them, there were lots of police surrounding the transfer. Fortunately the Cal football players took it away from the serious and self-important committees and waved it over their heads on the field making it less a symbol and a tradition and more a simple trophy.

The announcers said the game has been played 110 times since 1892. Cal has won 45 times. One does not have to be in either school's math department to figure out that Cal will have to win every game for the next 20 years to pull even.



Tonight my ex- gave a small birthday party for me. No one else thought to do that. On the other hand when I was there I saw a pair of pewter candlesticks I gave her thirty years ago. She had put them in her garage.

Now that I think of it, it is stupid, stupid, stupid that I should care an iota. Once I gave them to her they became hers to do whatever she wanted with them. She is entitled to throw them out if she likes. The real reason one gives candlesticks or anything else is to discharge the social obligation to give a gift. It is not uncommon that the giver doesn't want to give the gift and the recipient doesn't want to receive it. Yet we continue to give and receive, holiday after holiday.

To be a sulky child because one's present does not have a place of honor forever after is idiotic. So why bring it up? Because one is sometimes a sulky child, an idiot?

Changing Washington

In the New York Times today --
In light of the downturn, Mr. Obama is also said to be reconsidering a key campaign pledge: his proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. According to several people familiar with the discussions, he might instead let those tax cuts expire as scheduled in 2011, effectively delaying any tax increase while he gives his stimulus plan a chance to work.

That approach, Mr. Daley said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “looks more likely than not.”
Mr. Obama was elected 19 days ago, and will not even begin his term for another 61 days. I am not sure if this is a record for earliest broken campaign promise, but it has to be a contender.

The advantage of cynicism is that one is never disappointed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


[the Honda FCX Clarity]
The car in the picture does not have an engine. It has a fuel cell stack and electric motors and a large lithium-ion battery. It converts hydrogen gas into power and water vapor.

This presumably is the next thing after hybrids. Notice that it is available only by lease, not by sale. I assume the reason is that it is only available to buyers big enough to have their a hydrogen supply available at their own gas stations. An example of somebody that big would be the State of California.

[Interesting mental note - I thought of California rather than the federal government because by long experience the federal government has always been an obstacle and naysayer to green technology. Largely because Detroit is in the US but not in California. So much so that the measure of technological progress usually came down to a fight over jurisdiction. Invariably with the state's rights conservatives insisting on broad federal jurisdiction, and the statist liberals pressing state's rights.

Starting in late January that may begin to change. It will take a while to change mental gears and unconscious assumptions.]

An example of a corporation big enough would be Chevron. As in -- not bloody likely. Chevron and the other oil companies will fight desperately to prevent or delay anything that will make their refineries, supertankers, oil leases, and management expertise obsolete. And they have vast amounts of money to spend in Sacramento and Washington.

Getting back to the car, there are test drive reviews of it from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and some other paper. They all loved it, particularly because of its smoothness. Since it is electrically powered, it does not have engine vibration.

The EPA rates the fuel cell in the FCX at the equivalent of 74 miles per gallon. According to Honda a gas engine converts 18% of the energy in its fuel to mechanical work to power the car, a hybrid engine converts 30%. The FCX fuel cell converts 60%.

The current state of the technology is that hydrogen is obtained by removing it from natural gas, which is a fossil fuel and thus in eventually finite supply. It would also require drilling in wildlife reserves in Alaska and other such misbehaviors.

But if the politics of it were ever to be sorted out, unlimited supplies could be produced by nuclear plants dissociating water into hydrogen and oxygen. Nuclear plants used to produce hydrogen would have a huge advantage of over those now used to produce electricity. Because of losses in transmission, electricity producers must be within a moderate distance of the population centers consuming the electricity.

Hydrogen, like oil, can be cheaply shipped any distance in tanker ships. Which means the nuclear plants can be in the remotest, most seismically stable places on earth. Hydrogen tankers would be safer than oil tankers because there could be no spills, only gas leaks. Even leaks would be of no great importance. Hydrogen released in the air will soon oxidize into mist or rain.

But those are all thoughts for the future. First we have to develop hydrogen production capacity with current catalyst-based technology and a network of hydrogen supply stations. And then expand production of cars and light trucks like the Honda FCX.

But even before that we have to drink beer and watch the Big Game which is on right now. Go Bears!

That's It? That's What We Get for $25 BILLION?

[the Chevy Volt]

From the NY Times today--
G.M. says the car, which is scheduled to arrive in showrooms two years from now, will be able to travel 40 miles on a charge, but it will also have a small gas engine to extend the range to as much as 640 miles using both the battery and gasoline (the 1.4 liter, four-cylinder engine is intended to run a generator that will power the car and recharge the batteries once they are depleted). It is expected to cost about $40,000.

In only two years GM can produce an inferior version of the Prius? For $40,000. IF we give them $25,000,000,000 to do it?

I suggest we as a nation, and Congress as a congress, give them the national and Congressional bird. And I mean neither the eagle nor the turkey.

The very fact they have nothing better to offer suggests that they are bankrupt intellectually as well as financially. Let them go into bankruptcy, then have the trustee in bankruptcy sell their plants to Toyota or Honda. The Japanese car companies already knows how to build Priuses and Civic Hybrids and they don't need $25,000,000,000 to find out. Even if the government had to lend them part of the transition costs, it would still be a bargain.

Today, this very day, Toyota will sell you a shiny new Prius starting at $22,000 or a larger Camry Hybrid for $26,000 or a still-larger Highlander Hybrid for $34,000. A Honda Civic Hybrid starts at $23,000. Notably, Honda's FCX Clarity fuel cell car is already in production in limited numbers. Its tail pipe emissions are H2O, not CO2.

With GM management in charge, GM's assets are worthless because they can't make a profit with them. With Toyota or Honda management in charge, they might be worth something. This is an example where the free market is right. The penalty for persistent incompetence and short-sightedness is, and should be, economic extinction, removal from the marketplace. That has to happen to GM management.

Or we could bet $25,000,000,000 of our money that a $40,000 bad copy of the Prius will turn a profit. Especially with their Japanese competitors by then having a ten year lead in producing theirs. That ought to work.

Giving the Devil Her Due

I am tired of the election but I will float one last annoyance about it.

One of the most damaging moments Sarah Palin had with Katie Couric was when Couric asked her for an example of any regulation John McCain had favored in the past 26 years. Palin couldn't think of any and looked like an idiot.

In all fairness, Palin's problem wasn't that she didn't know the answer. Her problem was that there was no answer. McCain was going around the country lying about how he had supported regulation of the financial markets which could have prevented the current collapse. He hadn't. As Couric pointed out, McCain had consistently voted with his fellow Republicans to repeal every manner of regulation. Now that that policy has led to disaster he was trying to lie his way out of it. That wasn't Palin's fault. If Couric had asked McCain the same question he couldn't have answered it either.

Admittedly, if McCain had ever voted for rather than against a regulation, there is no chance Sarah Palin would have known about it.

What I think was the worst thing I heard about Palin was not that she was a moron. There have been plenty of those in high office. She is no stupider than Dan Quayle, for instance. Nor that she was a hypocrite and a liar as shown in the Youtube video here:

There have been no end of those in high office in my lifetime too. The worst thing I heard about her was that her staffers had urged her to prepare for the interview and she had refused. Repeatedly. Which is why she got clobbered in interview after interview.

George W. Bush has never been accused of being any great intellect. But he seems humble enough to realize it. Nor was Ronald Reagan any mental giant. But he had a formidable work ethic and was always so well-briefed that he was bulletproof even under hostile press questioning.

Palin is both ignorant and a moron, and simultaneously too cocksure to realize her limitations. That makes her truly dangerous.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Happened - 2

[not Obama voters]

It is considered a truism that the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is a big political and social change.

It isn't.

I saw a statistic that white people voted for McCain by 55% to 45%, white men 56% to 44%. Even more tellingly white Protestants voted for McCain 65% to 35%. We can assume that white Protestant men voted for McCain 66% to 34% -- two to one.

A hundred years ago white Protestant men were the only people in the country who voted. The enfranchisement of women, of blacks, and the arrival of Jews, Catholics, and Asians has changed greatly who votes in the United States. The election of Barack Obama is not the change. It reflects the changes that have been accumulating for a century. The election of Obama is not the change -- it is the result of the changes.

There are places where the whole population is white and Protestant -- Utah, Idaho, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Alaska. Western Colorado. Those places all voted for McCain roughly two to one.

Curiously there are other places that are also white and Protestant -- Maine, Oregon, Iowa, New Hampshire -- that voted for Obama. So even that reasoning doesn't work.

Another argument is that states with big cities voted for Obama, rural states did not. That works for Oregon and Nevada but not for Maine or Utah.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The 100 Days

Harvey writes:
So Obama has everything he needs to succeed or fail on his own. If he succeeds, and we're all prosperous, peaceful and happy, it will be because:
1. He made the right decisions and was damn lucky.
2. He was just damn lucky.

If he fails, and the economy sinks further, wars linger, and everyone is sick and tired of government interference, it will be because:
1. He made the wrong decisions and was damn unlucky.
2. Everything is so bad it is going to take twenty years to correct no matter what he does. Also known as being damn unlucky.

So who will Obama be, Hoover or Roosevelt?

By the way, I think I had General Motors on my dead pool.

It is commonly thought that a new president has a 100 day honeymoon before the disenchantment and bickering starts.

So we will know the answer to Harvey's questions by April 28 next year.

p.s. I was one of those who thought GM made a mistake in coming out with the Albatross V8 -- in spite of their claims it would be larger, more luxurious, and more powerful than the Toyota Camry and Prius.

Ta Da!

The mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich, has been elected United States Senator from Alaska. Senator-elect Begich is a Democrat. He is the 60th Senator in the bloc. Together with 57 of his colleagues and two independents, he can be expected to vote cloture on Republican filibusters. The House, the Senate, and the White House are now actually in Democratic hands. The election of 2008 has become the Revolution of 2008.

The Obama administration now has the votes to enact sweeping reforms of our national life if only it has the will.

It is almost too petty to mention that with the election of Begich, there will be no election to fill the convicted Senator Stevens' seat, an election the popular Governor of Alaska would have won handily. Which means that we won't have Sarah Palin to kick around any more.

I join Harvey in viewing the loss of Palin from our national life with a certain tinge of regret. She was so well suited to be our National Buffoon. Oh well, I guess we can't lose 'em all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Happened

Thank you for the birthday wishes.

My understanding is that subprime mortgages were only the largest and most concentrated asset class to go down the toilet. The same market assumptions that made mortgage lenders relax and ultimately drop their loan qualification standards for mortgage borrowers, applied to other lenders and borrowers. The most critical class of lending being short and long term lending to corporations, called 'commercial paper'.

The market would always expand, the price of the thing being sold would always go up, debts could always be refinanced, so why worry about the borrowers actual creditworthiness? The studied pretending away of actual creditworthiness went so far as to take the form of 'no documents' loans where, in return for letting you lie to them about your ability to repay they charged an additional quarter of a percent interest. Lying was formalized and priced. I am writing this in a house financed in just that way and writing this on a computer paid for with that lied-for money.

One heard during the discussion of the bailout that it wouldn't do any good because the corporations getting the money weren't going to lend it to anyone -- because no one's balance sheet was to be believed.

That is not a problem of misleading high school dropouts into thinking that Felipe's job at the carwash would still be enough to pay for the house after the mortgage reset. That is a systemic corruption of business standards.

It represents a conflict between the classes represented by the Republican party. The Eastern banking establishment had traditionally stood for old money and fiscal probity -- banking, insurance, securities -- three piece suits, gold watch chains, vested interests, old families, old money.

The Western conservatives represented people who made money in oil and in building whole cities in Arizona deserts in a year and don't look too closely at the financing or the sewage disposal. Speculators.

Regulation was a minor matter to Eastern establishment bankers. It meant that the government made sure that the correct standards were being maintained and outsiders were being kept out. An early example was junk bonds. They were called junk because by traditional standards of fiscal problity they were beneath consideration. Reputable brokers would not put their clients in them. Others would. And the ones who would (and their clients) made a lot of money on them.

For Western businessmen the loan to the wildcatter became OK after the fact when they hit oil and everybody made money. When neighborhoods, which didn't have streets or utilities let alone houses, got sold, problems with the financing would take care of themselves. To them regulation was an obstacle to be overcome. They were the outsiders the government rules were supposed to keep out.

The triumph of Ronald Reagan and deregulation mark the definitive turning of the Republican party toward the West. It also began the suffusion of Western attitudes about fiscal probity and business methods into Eastern banking, insurance, and securities.

To me there are two large symbols of the transition. One is the migration of the Bush family from Kennebunkport to Crawford. The other is the special emphasis on the rescue of AIG.

AIG sold business insurance. The assumption had been that one didn't need government regulation because there were market mechanisms that would take care of it. The specifics of the assumption was that bad practices would create risk and that risk would be carefully examined by the insurers. The insurers would either refuse to assume it or they would socialize it by raising premiums on the guilty party and that would put the bad practices on a risk-reward spectrum like everything else in the market. And the key company, at the end of all the insuring and re-insuring, was AIG.

My assumption is that the underwriting department at AIG came under greater and greater pressure from management not to look too closely at the balance sheets their clients were offering. AIG management, like every other management in the country, in the world, had to chose between controlling risk and turning away customers. Since the market would always expand and the price of the thing being sold would always go up, and everything could be refinanced, why turn away business?

The corruption of AIG and some of the Big 8 accounting firms was the abdication of business' responsibility to regulate itself. What we now know was also happening was the loss of the market's ability to regulate itself. Without the government regulating business that left..... nothing. The abyss.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


[Leiberman, Frist, McCain, Kennedy -- notice the identical grey suits]

Biden is on the radio talking about Leiberman (?) and letting him keep the chairmanship on the HOmeland Commish.
What's your thought on that one. L.

Contrary to popular impression, the president is not the government, the Congress is. Any legislative program of reform has to go through the Senate as well as the House. The evolution of the institution is that filibusters, which used to be reserved for extreme situations, are now routine and a given on any bill whatsoever. The number of senators needed to close off a filibuster is 60.

The Democrats have 57 seats. There are two independents - Leiberman and Sanders. There are three unresolved seats -- in Georgia, Minnesota, and Alaska. Leiberman and Sanders both caucus with the Democrats -- which means they vote with them on all routine matters and in return their seniority on committees is the same as if they were Democrats. Which gives the Democrats in effect 59 senators. With Leiberman they need to win only one of the the three unresolved seats to be able to pass legislation. Without him they need to win two.

The purpose of the recent election was to be able to institute reforms. If the Democrats do not get 60 votes in the Senate that won't happen. The victory of 2008 will be hollow -- form without substance.

Name any thing at all that you hope the new government will do differently than the old, and I can guarantee you that without 60 senators voting as Democrats, it will not happen.
Are you willing to throw away this historic opportunity to change the direction of the whole society, to begin to reverse twenty-eight years of regressive social policy, for the sake of political correctness? Is the urgency of redressing Joe Leiberman having disagreed with the left wing of the Connecticut Democratic Party so great that we are going to throw away the future of our country for it?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

But the Fundamentals are Strong

And the Beat(ing) Goes On

[Vanguard Extended Market Fund]

Last Today's Change
29.31 –1.85 –5.95%

1-day high 30.69
1-day low 29.27

52-week range
52-week low 28.50
52-week high 55.00

10-day average389.6K

Water-Ice on Mars

This is a photograph taken by the Phoenix Mars Lander in October. The white patch near the center of the picture appears to be water-ice.

The discovery of water-ice on Mars is A Big Deal. It makes the existence or prior existence of life there a near-certainty.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Peace Process

Rumsfeld said that any country that you can see three sides of from a good hotel room should think twice before giving away territory.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Request for Captions

So far I've got -

"C'mon, tell me where you hid the launch codes and the button."

"Do I have to wear this suit and blue tie the whole time I'm president?"

"No, being a legacy admit at Yale is NOT the same as being an affirmative action admit at Harvard."

"I'm sorry I called you a bummer. I meant boomer. Really."

"You're kidding me, sir. It's this long?" -- Anonymous

" do look like Alfred E. Newman." -- Harvey

"Don't worry, we've blocked public access to your Kenyan birth certificate until 2012." -- Nick Danger

Exportng Democracy

[the 46th president]

Declining demand for Chinese goods has led to factory closings and rising unemployment there. And, it is assumed, to political and social unrest. The government of China, after consistently denying that the world economic downturn would affect China, has announced a $586 billion economic stimulus package.

Apparently the Politburo, seeing that the economic downturn led the Americans to change their government, have decided that is a bad precedent and are doing their best not to follow it.

When I was a youth gerontocracy seemed a terrible idea. Now it is starting to make sense.

Now that Gen-X is in power, we have dodged a bullet in that the president is black. Blacks do not tattoo well. But our luck will not hold. It is just a matter of time until a Gen-Y president is inaugurated with a butterfly on her breast and a ring in her nose.

More Lines Limerical

That rake left his home and did galavant
To a place seen by most as extravagant.
The advantage he took
Of the femme he forsook
Did confirm his fears that he's irrelevant.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More Poesie

Junction City was Jack's destination.
Owhever, t'was not a vacation.
He toiled and he talked
While the City folks balked
At his thoughts that became an oration.

Learning How to Use HTML Tags - 2

Learning How to Use HTML Tags - 1


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Post-mortem Haha's

[the 45th president]

The New York Times--
PHOENIX — As a top adviser in Senator John McCain’s now-imploded campaign tells the story, it was bad enough that Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska unwittingly scheduled, and then took, a prank telephone call from a Canadian comedian posing as the president of France. Far worse, the adviser said, she failed to inform her ticketmate about her rogue diplomacy.

As a senior adviser in the Palin campaign tells the story, the charge is absurd. The call had been on Ms. Palin’s schedule for three days and she should not have been faulted if the McCain campaign was too clueless to notice.


One of the last straws for the McCain advisers came just days before the election when news broke that Ms. Palin had taken a call made by Marc-Antoine Audette. Mr. Audette and his fellow comedian Sebastien Trudel are notorious for prank calls to celebrities and heads of state.

Ms. Palin appeared to believe that she was talking to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, even though the prankster had a flamboyant French accent and spoke to her in a more personal way than would be protocol in such a call. At one point, he told Ms. Palin that she would make a good president some day. “Maybe in eight years,” she replied.

The Imelda Marcos Defense --
Ms. Palin has defended her wardrobe as the idea of the Republican National Committee and said that she would give it back.

“Those clothes, they are not my property,” she said. “Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the R.N.C. purchased.”

If convicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is re-elected, as he apparently will be, and is removed by the US Senate, as he apparently will be, there will be a runoff election for his seat. Palin is considered a shoo-in in that runoff. She will be in the US Senate for the next 40 years.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How Nuts Can the World Get?

[la grand-mere]
I don't know if they're kidding, but according to Le Monde, Sarah Obama Onyango, an 87 year old woman living in Kenya, has celebrated the election of her grandson as President of the United States by sacrificing a cow.,54-0@2-829254,63-1115361,0.html


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Our Town

[Levittown - 1948]

Doctor Johnson once observed, "Who tires of London, tires of life." The same cannot be said of Grand Junction. Nevertheless, when examined minutely, as by a canvasser who walks obscure neighborhoods distinguished by nothing more than their containing actual or suspected Democrats, it can be interesting.

It is superficially homogeneous, being for instance all white. Nevertheless there is diversity here. There are large numbers of Mexican Americans. There are Native Americans. There are lots, LOTS, of rednecks. There are neighborhoods of rundown single famiy houses, many of them vacant. The people in them seem as dispirited and disheveled as the houses. They are the people missing teeth, with marginal literacy, and correspondingly slight ability to understand the world around them. Most drive to deadend jobs in pickup trucks.

Within a bottle's throw of those neighborhoods, shiny new subdivisions have just been built. Some of the people in them are genuinely well-off. Approaching a large new house with an open garage, I was impressed with the huge shiny Ford F-350 pickup truck in front, other cars, a dune buggy, a complete home gymnasium, and more such. When I spoke to the voter, he said he owned his own business and made more than $250,000 a year. He was for McCain because Obama would raise his taxes. That was a pretty good argument. I tactfully omitted to mention the McCain campaign's slogan, "Country First". (Isn't there something about the "last refuge of scoundrels"? But never mind.)

Other subdivisions are even newer, even less landscaped, and the houses not as large nor as expensive. These are too new to have become rundown yet, but one can hear their fate in the ignorant twang of the occupants. It is just a matter of time.

Sadly, Grand Junction's sole concession to politically correct land use planning is the requirement that all new houses have exteriors of dun stucco, and that it be the same dun throughout any given subdivision -- the bureaucrat's passion for uniformity. I am sure the reader can imagine without effort how unfortunate the result is.

I had been congratulating Grand Junction on housing even its working class in single family detached houses and not in apartments. Until today. Today I canvassed a packet of rundown apartment buildings in the bleakest of environs -- the parking lot of K-Mart on one side, their own littered, greasy parking lots on the other.

There is also the obligatory historical district near downtown of the mansions and near-mansions of the rich and near-rich of the inter-war period. Seventh Street in Grand Junction is The Esplenade in Chico. No amount of urban condescension can obscure the elegance of such a place, especially in autumn when the leaves are falling. The leaves move in a wave behind a passing car like a wake behind a motorboat.

Grand Junction shares the floor of Grand Valley with the Colorado River. It is surrounded by distant high sandstone cliffs. Last night as the sun was setting the golden light of late afternoon made the cliffs radiant. An hour later, after the sun had set, the red light of sunset mixed with the purple light of mountains seen at a distance to produce a true vermilion. I have heard of vermilion cliffs before but have always assumed it was hyperbole. It is not.

So Grand Junction, like an interesting person, has its parts. Not all of them are admirable or even likable, but they make the whole engaging and worth knowing, even if only briefly.

It is an odd reflection on my odd agenda item in retirement to get to know the streets and layout of various world cities -- to have a favorite coffee shop in Helsinki, to know my way around Buenos Aires. The towns I have gotten to know lately have been Ellensburg, Joplin, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and now Grand Junction. Ah well.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Democracy in Grand Junction

The realization sinks in hard and fast -- almost all registered Democrats here have bad taste and small yappy dogs. How can we seize power when we are watching daytime television on Saturday afternoon?

I got yelled at by more than one McCain-nik, who told me that our boy is a communist, a socialist, a Muslim, and wasn't even born here. Worse yet, they were talking about Joe Biden, they hadn't even gotten to Obama yet.

There is still more to learn about politics, no matter how jaded one thinks he has become. I was listening to a long book on CD about the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 on the way here. The author in an aside suggests that President Wilson's erratic behavior at the Versailles Conference and his incapacitating stroke were precipitated by a case of influenza. Which is how I happened to be thinking about what happened while Wilson was incapacitated. His vice-president did not assume the powers of the presidency, Mrs. Wilson did.

It is considerably more likely that if something goes wrong with McCain's health during his presidency, that he would be incapacitated rather than just cleanly keel over dead. So the woman whose qualifications to be president we should be considering are not Sarah Palin's but Cindy McCain's. She may not be as malign a personality as Nancy Reagan, but to my knowledge she has never done anything in life
but be a rich man's daughter and John McCain's wife.

Barack Obama is 47 years old and apparently in good health. His risk of incapacitation is vanishingly small. Even so, Michelle Obama is a successful attorney and appears intelligent and level-headed.

The second notion that occurred to me was how a Bradley Effect election would affect the winner. In 2000 and 2004, however much one may object to the particulars of the outcome, I think everyone can accept that Bush received roughly half of the votes each time. Contrast that with a Bradley Effect victory for McCain. He would not only not have a mandate, he wouldn't even be legitimately in office. Even Republicans of good conscience would have to question such a result. How could he govern when he had no moral claim to the office at all?