Saturday, March 29, 2008

Film at Eleven

It turns out that the First Amendment is also obsolete as we see in this news report --


Google Street View

does not refer to a view of the streets. It is a view from the street. From Google Maps click street view, At large, zoomed-out, scale there will be camera icons. Click on one and zoom in. When you have zoomed in far enough, a golden icon of a man will appear. That icon can be dragged to anywhere on any street outlined in blue. This includes most of the streets in the Bay Area. It has a little black 'x' under it to indicate its precise location. The purpose of the little man is to indicate viewpoint. His direction of view can be rotated by dragging or by clicking on arrows. It can be zoomed.

With it I can see my RV parked across the street, close up and in detail. I can look at it from the front. I can move a few paces and see it from the side, from the back. Significantly, I can see in through its window. The pictures of the front of the house shows the recycling tubs by the curb, empty, so it was probably a Friday. My car was in the driveway. It was at least a month ago because it shows my mailbox which I have taken down.

Fooling with it, I have discovered that Bubba has his boat on a trailer in the driveway of his ranch house at 621 Stewart Street in Juneau, but he has taken the Evinrude off the back of it. There is no street view of Chico yet, but I can assure you it is coming.

The concept of privacy is obsolete now. To those who insist that human dignity and freedom are impossible without it, one can only say, "Get over it." The Fourth Amendment protects our right to be secure in our homes and papers. It is as obsolete as paper. Are you reading this on paper? But you CAN look in the window of my RV and of my house.

Similarly the Second Amendment. Does a musket-armed citizenry really constitute a militia that can resist professional soldiers armed with tanks, artillery, and aircraft? If it doesn't, then civilian firearms can be of use only for crime and spouse-shooting. Neither of which is in the public interest.

Or so I would have said a few years ago. The past few years have shown that Iraqi civilians and their foreign friends armed with small arms can indeed resist a modern well-equipped army. However bad their cause, their example cannot be ignored. A generation ago, now almost three actually, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto did the same. So maybe the Second Amendment does still have a purpose.

I could be wrong about the Fourth Amendment too. But it is fun to say things like, "Get over it."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hooray for Me!

I actually started and persisted in and completed and copied and mailed my 2005 federal taxes.  Now all I have to do is my 2006 federal taxes, my 2007 federal taxes, my 2005 state taxes, my 2006 state taxes, and my 2007 states taxes.  In short I am almost done if I do nothing else for the next three weeks.  

Finishing the play and starting the taxes suggests that I am having a spring restart of new beginnings.   I am reborn with the spring. So I am returning to tired old long-deferred projects. Ain't spirituality great?

When and if the taxes ever get done, I mean to go through the mounds of pictures that I have accumulated during the past four years and finish culling them.  I may even print some of the culls and put them in albums.  I may even put some of the old ones from long ago in albums.  I should be finished about the time I croak.  Nate and Mia and Lucy can poke briefly through the dusty albums, conclude there is nothing of interest and throw them away.  Or if they are thrifty, toss the pictures and keep the albums for their own pictures.  Sigh.  Life is not only fleeting but stupid too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Guess Which is French and Which is English

the queen and Mme. Sarkozy

How Old is McCain?

It is characteristic of a certain generation that we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard that President Kennedy was shot. That was November 1963, almost 45 years ago.

How long ago was that? 45 years earlier than 1963 was 1918. Woodrow Wilson was President. The Great War (it didn't become World War I until there was a World War II) was being fought. The Tsar had been overthrown and Lenin had just come to power in Russia. Henry Ford was making Model-T's. Television and the Great Depression were still decades in the future. Movies had just been invented, were black-and-white, and silent. Ty Cobb hit .382 and Babe Ruth was still a pitcher for the Red Sox.

When my family came to California in 1947, it had been a state for 97 years. Today our star has been on the flag for 158 years. We have been here almost 40 percent of the time California has been a state.

John McCain is 71 years old. He was born in 1936. 71 years before 1936 was 1865. The armies of Grant and Lee were hammering at each other in Virginia. There were slaves in the South, Rhett Butler had not yet told Scarlett O'Hara that he didn't give a damn. Automobiles, telephones, and electric lights had not been invented. Germany and Italy were both collections of little princedoms. Ships were made of wood and had sails. No one had been permitted to enter or leave Japan in 300 years. Victoria was Queen of England and Empress of India. The sun never set on the British Empire which included a quarter of the world's area and a quarter of its population, and was the largest empire in human history. Napoleon's nephew, Napoleon III ruled France. The Ch'ing dynasty ruled China. "Immigrants" meant the Irish. Wyoming had not yet been organized as a territory. Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico were still foreign countries. The flag had 36 stars. California was reached from the east by covered wagon or by clipper ship Around the Horn. The Sioux had not yet gone on the warpath against Custer and the 7th Cavalry. Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Nathaniel Hawthorne were still writing. Mexico had an emperor. Money was coins made of silver and gold. Baseball had not been invented.

The dude is OLD.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You Read It Here First

On March 12 I predicted in this blog that the Republican policy on the subprime economic crisis would be to save the banks and to throw defaulting borrowers to the wolves. John McCain said exactly that today.
“Government assistance to the banking system should be based solely on preventing systemic risk that would endanger the entire financial system and the economy,” Mr. McCain said, speaking before a business group in Santa Ana, Calif.
He went on to add hypocrisy and insult to proposed injury, saying,
“it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers.”
Since the Bear Stearns bailout has already made it clear that the government will in fact bail out irresponsible big banks, who does that leave for the government not to bail out? Surprise!

Admittedly it takes something less than a genius to figure out that the Republicans would do whatever it takes to rescue the banks and nothing at all to help would-be middle class homeowners. The surprise is that they said so openly and early enough to be held accountable in the election.

The only reason for such a politically seemingly-suicidal course would be that the McCain people, like the Clinton people, are intimidated by the enormous pile of cash accumulated by Obama. Money wins elections. [An obvious proof that democracy doesn't work.] Obama has $80 million, twice as much as McCain and Clinton combined. The reason McCain would make such a remark to a group of Orange County businessmen may well be that right now he needs money more than he needs votes.

I am rapidly being polarized off my 'plague on both your houses' nonpartisan perch. My growing antagonism against McCain and the Republicans also informs my preferences in the Democratic nomination struggle.

I confess that I have preferred Clinton because she has become willy nilly the candidate of both women and working people (now that Edwards is out). Obama represents a coalition of suburban liberals and black people, neither of whom I identify with. White wine and beer versus red wine and malt liquor. But looking forward to the general election, it is urgent that the Democratic candidate be someone who can mop the floor with McCain.

McCain has three liabilities:
a) He is no debater. He could barely out-debate a mutt like Mitt Romney. Mitt the mutt.
b) He has, or is being forced into, indefensible positions.
c) He is unlikable.

Clinton's liabilities complement those of McCain
a) She is not as good a speaker as Obama.
b) She has a longer record and more to defend than Obama.
c) She is less likable than Obama.

I am now disposed to prefer Senator Obama. It is in large part to avoid the frustrations of 2004. That year the Republican incumbent went around the country saying one stupid and indefensible thing after another and John Kerry was never quite articulate enough to refute and confound him. Kerry never got traction and he never got elected. One can see that happening to Clinton. One can't with Obama.

Ironically the modern precedent for the success of a candidate whose qualifications are largely intelligence and effectiveness as a speaker and debater, is Senator Clinton's husband.

If Obama is the candidate, the McCain campaign will do everything it can to limit the number and length of the debates. But with the availability of instant film clips on TV and the internet, whenever McCain speaks, Obama can be shown refuting his remarks on the same day's news reports. Even if the McCain people evade direct debate, there will be virtual debate.

It would be frustrating beyond bearing if the Democrats, facing an unpopular president, an unpopular war, a failing economy, and a weak Republican candidate, should still manage to lose the election.


Monday, March 24, 2008

A Bridge to Nowhere?

Excerpted from the New York Times, Monday 24 March 2008

Mark Penn, the chief strategist for Mrs. Clinton, said Mr. Obama’s Senate career did not back up his promise of being able to forge a new governing coalition across party lines.

“It’s a great promise,” Mr. Penn said. “But are the actions consistent with the words? I don’t see it.”

Still, many of Mr. Obama’s supporters say he has recognized this new political climate in a way that Mrs. Clinton has not. They say he is ready for a new, self-assured era in which progressives (few have returned to using the word “liberal”) make no apologies about their goals — universal health care, withdrawing troops from Iraq, ending tax breaks for more affluent Americans — and assume that a broad swath of the public shares them.

Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, often displays the wariness of Democrats who came of political age in the Reagan era, when the party was constantly on the defensive. As The New Republic recently put it, “Clintonism is a political strategy that assumes a skeptical public; Obamaism is a way of actualizing a latent ideological majority.”

Mr. Obama significantly outperformed Mrs. Clinton among independents in the coast-to-coast nominating contests on Feb. 5, and in several other key contests. But can that transpartisan appeal be sustained? He has only begun to take some hard political hits — from the Clinton campaign, from conservative commentators and radio hosts, and from the campaign of Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee.

So far, Republicans give every indication of planning to portray Mr. Obama as just another big-government liberal.

“When you’re rated by National Journal as to the left of Ted Kennedy and Bernie Sanders, that’s going to be difficult to explain,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

[ a) "Obamaism is a way of actualizing a latent ideological majority.” Somebody actually got paid money for writing that sentence.
b) Bernie Sanders is the only avowed socialist ever elected to the US Senate.]

So the situation remains that Obama claims he is going to build bridges. And the people on the other end of the bridge he intends to build are declaring publicly that they oppose everything he favors and that they are going to rip him to shreds at their earliest opportunity.

This is very much like the situation of the peace camp in Israel. They want to build bridges to people who respond to their peaceful intentions with, "Death to the Jews!".

In both cases the problem is that wishful thinking is not a workable policy.


The press and the government keep talking about the core rate of inflation, inflation not counting food and fuel. To those of us who actually buy food and fuel this isn't too helpful. Fortunately the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes full consumer price indices ('indexes' to victims of newspeak). And lots of other numbers.

Note that there are tables for various metropolitan areas - the colored map at the right has a pulldown menu of cities like New York, Chicago, LA, the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area, and even such places as Phoenix.

Gratifyingly there is also an implicit breakout by class. There is a set of tables of the cost of living of "urban wage earners and clerical workers". Presumably this omits the heartbreaking price increases in the all-important yachts-mansions-private jets-servants sector. And the two can be combined. Non-yachts-and-mansions indices are available for the Bay Area, and even for Phoenix.

The non-yacht-and-mansion cost of living increases in the Bay Area the past three years were:

2005 2.6%
2006 3.1%
2007 2.9%

Applying these as deflators to the prices paid and current value of my index-fund-based ETF shares, those shares I have held since July 2005 have increased an adjusted 1.6% per year. Those held since September 2006 have decreased by 0.03%. The composite rose 1.3% per year. (I used to teach Excel, so I'm right.) And that is including today's 3.37% increase. Which means that all of the money I have gained in the past three years I gained today and will doubtless lose tomorrow. Feh.


What Huygens Saw

Here is a link to a movie made long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.


Boycott Exxon and Mobil

I recently got a 'please forward to ten friends' e-mail advocating a mass boycott of the two biggest oil companies, Exxon and Mobil, to force them to lower their prices. Exxon and Mobil merged years ago which shows either how well-informed the originator was or how old the message is. This is a variant of the "Don't buy gas on Tuesday" scheme a few years back.

Prices are set by supply and demand. If aggregate demand remains the same, it doesn't matter which distributors it is sold through. The motive behind these schemes is denial. There is a solution to high gas prices but we do not want to hear it -- smaller cars with smaller engines that get better gas mileage. When demand goes down, prices will go down also.

The other thing that is driving up prices is the decline of the dollar. The price of gasoline is based on the world price. American buyers pay in dollars which keep going down in value compared to the euros, yen, yuan, rubles, and rupees that other buyers are paying with. Which means that we have to pay more and more dollars to be paying the same world price everyone else is paying.

To support the dollar we have to reduce the federal deficit and the trade deficit which means higher taxes for some (ideally the rich) and paying higher prices for consumer goods. And getting rid of those V-8 gas guzzlers. Higher taxes, higher prices, smaller cars? Accept personal responsibility? Yikes! Nobody wants to hear that! Better go back to schemes to boycott Exxon and Mobil.

P.S. If anybody from Exxon Mobil's PR department is looking for a paid stooge, I am eminently available.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I broke two of my cardinal principles to read this book. One is that I don't read fiction. Life is too short to spend it not learning what little I can before I croak. So only non-fiction. The other is that when I break rule number one and read fiction, it may never be by a living author. Years ago I learned from a book maven (Lois Harzfeld) about the expertise of working as a buyer in a used bookstore. It surprised me that there is no worse, more unsaleable, dog in a bookstore than last year's bestseller. It is unclear to me whether this signifies that we the public are mindlessly fickle in our herdthink, or that we like the current bestseller from force of suggestion by the marketers. When they think the market is saturated they stop pushing it and start selling us some other book, and we forget about the first one.

Hillel once observed that no one knows for sure whether he has had a happy and righteous life until he is safely dead. My own sense is that the Sage of Jabneh may have been overly conservative. For instance, does Ralph Nader have to be completely dead before we can conclude that he is an egocentric prick? But I digress.

Hillel was right however about authors. One never knows for sure whether a writer is any good or not until he is dead, preferably for a generation or three. And even then there are uncertainties. Now, as in his lifetime, there are many who say Anthony Trollope was the worst of all Victorian writers, that "Barchester Towers" and everything else he ever wrote was wordy pompous drivel. And others who have made it into a PBS mini-series.

So it was an act of faith, and of confidence in a friend, that I read Michael Chabon's "Yiddish Policemen's Union". As I have already noted in an entry here, I recommend it to everyone and particularly to Jews. I am sorry to be joined in my opinion by my bete noire, the New York Times, which is running it as a serial in their so-called newspaper.

One advantage I have discovered about reading living authors, as I discovered in the case of Michael Chabon of Berkeley, is that they have their own websites, which long-dead authors generally do not.

I was surprised to learn that I don't just enjoy fiction. I NEED fiction, especially the novel. The fact is that one life and one world are not enough. As to whether the author still breathes or not, I can refer back to the experience of a climbing partner who drove an ancient BMW 2002 with 312,000 miles on it, or so he claimed. It was horribly noisy and semi-useless as transportation so we had to take my Toyota Tercel wagon econobox whenever we wanted to go anywhere distant. But Robert just loved that thing for its acceleration, its handling on winding mountain roads, for being a BMW, just loved it. It finally sank in from watching him that it was really and truly worth something to get that much pleasure from a car, no matter how impractical. I have been so ironclad focussed on reliability and practicality all my life that I wound up driving a Toyota Tercel wagon (even now I drive a Camry wagon). Even if Chabon and "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" are forgotten in ten years, or in two, or even next year, I got pleasure from it now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Astrology and the Age of Aquarius

When the Moon is in the Seventh House, and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace shall guide the planets, and love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius ....


Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more forces of derision
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelations
And the mind's true liberation

1987: In August Jose Arguelles organized The Harmonic Convergence which was a foretaste of the imminent New Age.

1997: Carl Jung was inspired by the work of Nostradamus and supported his contention that the New Age would happen between 1997 and 2000.

2000: There are many prophecies which agree that the Millennium year is 2000, among them those of Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, St. Malachy, Garabandal, Fatima and other Christian prophets. Margaret Hone in The Modern Textbook of Astrology gives the year 2000 as the date for the new Age. The theory of "The Divine Plot", by this author, is an astrological model of the historical process expressing multiple cyclic world ages, and it projects a transition to a new world age in the year 2000.

2001: G. Barbarin stated that according to the principle of the Great Week and the six days of a thousand years of the adamic Era, there will follow a day of rest, the Millennium, which from the year 2001 will bring a thousand years of peace.

So how's that been workin' for ya so far?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Everything Can Be Done with Video Editing Software

I would sure like to see the candidates hit in the face with pies. Repeatedly. I assume heavy duty things would happen to anyone who did it in real life. But nobody cares about real life anymore anyway. I want to see a political pie-a-thon. Where are you gilded youth who know from video editing? Make my dreams come true.

Movin' On Up

In 2008, a mere 26 years since their introduction, I have a CD player in my car. This revolutionary change was not acceded to lightly nor without honorable rearguard resistance. It was prompted by my exhaustion of the Books-on-tape supply in Berkeley Public Libraries during last summer's Canadian Sojourn. All the new Books-on-tape, and most of the old ones, are in fact Books-on-CD.

Within an hour of the new gizmo appearing in the dashboard with its ridiculous styling and useless lights, I had been to the library and was playing "Emma" by Jane Austen. Nothing like a 200 year-old novel on 20 year-old technology in a 13 year-old car for keeping up with the times.

But I was either astute about planning ahead for when I will have heard all the books-on-CD at the local library, or I was a gullible fish, and got the fancier model that comes with an iPod cable to the glove box. The theory here is I should be able to download books-on-what? from the central public library online as digital files onto an iPod, then play them on the radio. The caveats here are that I don't have an iPod, have no current plans to get one, and am not perfectly clear on the concept of what they are.

As I understand it one of the things they do is to digitally store and play movies. The object is apparently to avoid your 30 to 60 inch television or even your 15 inch computer screen so as to watch it on your 3 inch iPod screen. The reason for doing this I understand is portability. One can watch the movie while driving for instance. Or while riding BART so as to find oneself in Livermore when one was going to Berkeley. But most of all, one can watch the movie in class while flunking out of whatever school one was formerly attending. Since these things are primarily for the youth market one can reasonably assume that the movies will be of the car chase, explosions, Bruce Willis, and special effects variety. Those just have to be great on a 3 inch screen with ear buds for sound.

Anyway, sooner or later I will get one, and my car will be ready. It will be 26 years old, but iPod ready.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another Horrible Possibility

All during the summer Senator Obama's slim delegate lead, currently 1367 to 1224, continues to dwindle to a hair's breadth, and both candidates remain well short of the 2,025 needed for the nomination. The nomination is truly up to the super-delegates.

Meanwhile the economy continues to skid, unemployment and prices continue to rise. White unemployment rises to 6.9%, black unemployment rises to 2.5 times as much, but because the skid has begun to accelerate, everyone know the government figures are outdated. Black unemployment probably exceeds 20% and is going higher. In the poorest areas it exceeds 50%. There are warnings of a long hot summer. The dollar continues to sink. Gasoline nears $5 a gallon.

Former President Bill Clinton and the party machines go to work. The convention, originally scheduled for three days in August, drags into the Dog Days of September. It starts to look like Senator Clinton will get the nomination. The Reverend Al Sharpton makes a widely televised speech from the pulpit of a church in Atlanta. He announces that "the fix is in", and denounces unnamed "powers that be". He may even be right.

There are major riots in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark, lesser ones in a dozen other cities.

Sub-scenario 1 -- The convention nominates Senator Obama. Anger about the riots and Republican claims that the Democrats "caved in" to the rioters cost the Democrats dearly. Everybody hears Obama's appeals "to heal a divided nation" as appeasement and rewarding rioters. Senator McCain wins in a landslide.

Sub-scenario 2 -- The convention nominates Senator Clinton. Her appearances all over the country are met with angry demonstrations. There are marches, arrests, tear gas, sit-ins. Black voters stay home. Senator McCain wins in a mudslide.

2009 - Media finally gets past their infatuation with President McCain the War-Hero pilot (he heroically got shot down) and President McCain the Maverick. They finally notice President McCain the Prickly Mediocrity.

Abe and Me

A friend's husband gave me a set of VCR tapes of the PBS television series 'The Civil War'. It is disturbing. From the distance of a century, now a century and a half, I can't help but feel that we bungled our history in the 19th Century. Somehow the same thing must have been possible without all those hundreds of thousands of boys dying pointlessly at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and a thousand other places to achieve something that could have been achieved by compromise legislation. But "somehow" isn't policy and isn't concrete proposals. If Lincoln couldn't think of anything to fix it, there is no reason to think I can, even now with a 150 years of separation. That doesn't mean it wasn't bungled, it just means I can't think of how it could have been not bungled.

I have the feeling that we are bungling our history in the 21st century too. For this I have neither the separation, nor the 150-years-later vantage point. Several things seem to be going wrong at the same time. The huge trade deficits and the huge government budget deficits feel wrong. The dependence on foreign oil, on dwindling oil supplies at all, feels wrong. The growing disparity of incomes compared to other developed countries feels wrong. But maybe in 150 years these will all be early adjustment difficulties of being the first large country to enter a global economy, the emergence of a new world social order.

Maybe the emerging world economy and social order will be like the internet -- many hubs but no center. Having been the center for 60 years, perhaps we are experiencing the transition more painfully than those who were minor hubs before and will stay minor hubs. Those now toddlers, when they are gray, will be able to say whether our present difficulties were death agonies or birth pangs.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Those are huge and beautiful, but are they real?

I have always been impressed with the astonishing ability of photographers for the New York Times to get spectacularly good dramatic photographs of scenes that were hard to get to, lasted only an instant, and were dangerous to be near. It was a wonder to me that photographers could be so good impromptu. I speculated, "Well, they are talented professionals. And they must have shot a million frames of which that one was the best." But it still made me wonder how they do it so consistently.

I got an inkling of how they do it yesterday. In one of the photos of the demonstrations in Lhasa, I noticed something interesting about the man whom the photograph centered on. One could dimly see the background through his arm. The NY Times photoshops its news photographs.

If they doctor their photographs, what does that tell you about the rest of their reporting?

Thursday, March 13, 2008


WONDERFUL NEWS!!! I have just now finished the mo@@##$$%^&^*&*'king second draft of the 'Prequel to Hamlet'. It ain't good, but it IS done! Hurrah for closure!! I set out to write a bad play and I have damned well written one. I feel like a momentarily and slightly free man. Don't all rush forward at once to get a copy. I don't want anyone to be hurt in the stampede.

Free for now!
Free for now! Great G_d A-mighty! Free for now!

Here is a link to it:

If you are reading it in Windows, if you click on a footnote, press <-- Backspace to instantly return to the text.

I am sorry

to seem to be harping on Senator Obama's campaign but lately he is the more ridiculous of the two. The latest inanity was his carrying almost 95% of the black vote in Mississippi and then complaining that race was not and should not be an issue in the election. Hello? His theory is that 95% of the black voters of Mississippi voted for him because they preferred his health care plan to Senator Clinton's?

Geraldine Ferraro's remarks were shocking and controversial. She said that Obama would not be in the position he is were he not black. This brought immediate umbrage and public huffing and puffing from the Obama campaign. To disbelieve her requires that one believe instead that Obama's huge majorities among black voters is about the niceties of who opposed the war first and so on. Surely you believe that, yes?

It gets even funnier when one sees who the Obama campaign sent to the press to be the Official Offendee -- the ever-so-Reverend Al Sharpton. The Reverend Al has made a career in New York out of being the voice of black antisemitism, unapologetic defender of Tawana Brawley even after she was exposed as a liar, defender of black people against drug enforcement, against law enforcement, against high school graduation requirements, against welfare reform, against birth control. He has made a career out of being the only black politician in New York irresponsible enough to make a platform out of race and denial. If ever there were someone who was made a living and a good one out of being black, it is the Reverend Sharpton. That is who Obama sent to denounce Ferraro's saying that race might have something to do with it.

What Obama's campaign is really saying is that they want black voters to decide on the basis of race but for white voters not to. Unless they are condescending white liberals.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Candidate for Change and Politics as Usual

Canadian Leader on Obama Leak

Published: March 6, 2008

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Wednesday that the leak of a Canadian diplomatic memorandum about Senator Barack Obama’s position on NAFTA was unfair to his campaign for the Democratic nomination and possibly illegal.

The note was based on a meeting between Canadian diplomats in Chicago and Austan D. Goolsbee, a professor of economics and Mr. Obama’s senior economic adviser. It suggested that Mr. Obama’s criticisms of NAFTA were just maneuvering. While the Obama campaign said the memorandum was not an accurate account of the meeting, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Mr. Obama of hypocrisy.

I am so glad that both campaigns and the prime minister all agree there really is an Austan D. Goolsbee. Otherwise one would have to assume the Times had invented him.

It is also interesting that by publicly apologizing for the memo, Prime Minister Harper confirmed that it was real and took away whatever deniability the Obama campaign might have had.

Was Harper being smart and devious or just Canuck dumb? The content of the memo was that Canada has nothing to fear from an Obama administration. So Harper had no reason to embarrass the Obama campaign.

From which follows a confirmation of our worst suspicions of our northern neighbors -- they are as honest and naive as they seem.

Francine Hardaway and the Queen of Spain

have been mocking Hillary Clinton in Francine's blog for not really being a woman. That is pretty funny considering the parallel knock on Obama, that he's not really Black. He is the descendant not of slaves but of a rich Kenyan foreign exchange student. His stepfather was a wealthy Muslim Indonesian businessman. How he must have suffered from the indignities of racism growing up recognized as the Best and Brightest and Richest, first in Indonesia, then in a wealthy Chicago suburb. The wrenching sorrow of it all! And we all know how badly successful young graduates of Harvard Law are treated. The indignities of being elected to the Illinois state legislature, the House of Representatives, and the US Senate have surely given him a deep empathy for the poor and downtrodden of the earth. (It's a Black Thing -- you wouldn't understand.)

When Hillary went from her wealthy Chicago suburb and Wellesley College to work as an organizer in the slums of Chicago, she was there to Bear the White Woman's Burden. When Obama went from his wealthy Chicago suburb and Harvard to work as an organizer in the slums of Chicago, what color Man's Burden was HE Bearing? Yellow? Red? Want a third guess? (What the hell were they organizing anyway? When I was there in the late '60's the South Side of Chicago was plenty organized -- by the Daly Machine and the Blackstone Rangers crime syndicate. "Stone run it", it said on the walls.)

The leftists of San Francisco got a rude shock a number of years ago. They worked hard to elect former Speaker of the California Assembly, Willie Brown, because he was 'A Black Man'. They were furious and betrayed when they discovered a few months into his term in office that he was not 'A Black Man', whatever that meant to them, but a liberal Democrat. Just like the White mayors before and after him. And there is far less that is Black about Obama than about Willie Brown.

The White liberals supporting Obama are in for an even ruder shock when he has been in office for a few months if he is so foolish as to try to reach the promised accommodation with the Republicans.

How much are the liberals willing to concede for Obama's ounce of melanin? Will we concede the rescission of the 2003 tax breaks for the rich? Give up the timetable for withdrawal from Iraq? Forget about the re-imposition of CAFE standards on gas mileage of new cars? Do without subprime mortgage reforms that benefit the borrowers and not just the banks? Will we concede these things in return for having a president who looks credible dancing the boogaloo?

It is clear what we will get if Hillary is elected instead. She has vowed to fight the Republicans. Which means that we will have gridlock rather than Obama's spineless concessions. Pick your poison.

Contrary to the claims of Francine Hardaway and her accomplice the Queen of Spain, though Obama is not Black, Hillary really is a woman. Her election will mean that federal appointments will no longer be limited to wealthy Eastern Establishment white men. Wealthy Eastern Establishment white women will be appointed too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Spitzer Scandal

One scandal here is that both the Times and the Post ran false headlines in their newspapers. "Ties to a prostitution ring" implies corruption, bribe-taking, Tony Soprano delivering envelopes of cash. Spitzer paid money. He did not get money. So long as it was his own money, this is the most trivial imaginable offense. When is the last time anyone went to jail in the United States for patronizing a prostitute?

That the FBI used its resources and its agents to investigate and wiretap for this, is a second scandal. How much did they spend of the public's money for this idiot charade? Toward what public purpose?

I for one want to see FBI supervisors in front of congressional committees and heads to roll. This is even stupider and more insulting to the public's intelligence than the Lewinsky nonsense.

Harvey said...

Ya gotta get the facts straight. It was Spitzer's bank that noticed unusual cash transactions and reported it to the IRS. When it turned out to be the Gov, they turned it over to the FBI to investigate public corruption. Just like my friend who was busted with pot, he was stupid and got caught.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Restaurant Business

The Irony of It All

I remember reacting sharply to a remark George Bush made during the fourth debate with Al Gore in the 2000 election campaign. He said, without prompting, that under a Bush administration US foreign relations would be limited to those areas of the world where we had important economic interests. He mentioned Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East. Notably omitted were Africa and non-oil-producing countries of the Middle East. He said that aid would continue to "other parts of the world" but that the United States would not engage in "nation-building". It was out of context to the rest of the debate-discussion with Gore. It seemed to me that he was announcing a policy of neo-isolationism and appealing to isolationist-thinking voters.

Consider the post-9-11 history of the Bush Administration and its neoconservative foreign policy. We currently have armies in Iraq and Afghanistan cramming democracy down the throats of peoples too primitive to have any idea what we are talking about. Not exactly a noninterventionist foreign policy.

There is a saying that life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. It seems history is too.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Apartheid in Israel

After the murders of the 8 yeshiva boys by a Jerusalem Arab, maybe it is time for non-Israeli-citizen Arabs to leave Israel. The left and the Arabs have for half a century demonized Israel with a long list of lies claiming Israel is racist, colonialist, apartheid, engaged in ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Having cried "wolf!" for half a century, maybe it is time for Israel to take advantage of the Palestinians' unrelenting destruction of their own credibility.

The Arabs have driven out and, where they could, killed every Jew in their jurisdictions. One has only to think of the former Jews of Gaza who were forced out in part by endless Arab terrorist attacks. It is not clear why the Jerusalem Arabs have any more right to live in Israel than the Jews had to live in Gaza. The recent murders have demonstrated the costs of permitting them to remain. Perhaps it is time for them to go.

What can the Arabs and the left say that they did not say when it wasn't true? With Saudi-paid liars like Jimmy Carter already claiming Israeli apartheid, what else could they say if it were true? How would those who believed the lies about forced removals think any the worse if there were forced removals?

The murderer had a resident-of-Jerusalem identification. It gave him permission to freely go anywhere in Israel. Perhaps it is time for that kind of situation to be discontinued.

The Arabs persistently demand the dismantling of Israeli settlements on land the they claim. Perhaps the Arabs should prove the sincerity of their belief in apartheid by dismantling Arab settlements on land Israel claims. That would include all of Jerusalem. Israel should take the lead in Arab-Israel cooperation by doing the dismantling for them.

Would this be collective punishment? Yes. The Arab celebrations of the murders of the Israeli boys with flags, dancing in the streets and on rooftops, giving out of sweets, firing rifles in the air, demonstrates that it would be fully justified.

Arabs out of Jerusalem. Now.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Candidate of Change

The subject of this picture is not the how-dare-you-say-he's-a-Muslim-you-racist-pig candidate, but the little devices being held up to him. At first I thought they were cellphones. Apparently they are modern microphones. A broadcast microphone used to be the size of a can of beans set on a broomstick-thick handle, and there was an electrical cord coming out of the end of the handle. When did they change? Nobody told me.

Great Stuff

I am reading "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon. So far it is wonderful stuff - imaginative premises, witty intelligent prose and dialogue, tight coherent story structure. Smart fun. Chabon won a Pulitzer for his previous novel so he ain't just being lucky here. I highly recommend.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008



This very strange thing has happened. I have a friend
in Chico, M______. She is 42, has a 13 year old
son who was just Bar Mitzva'ed, she taught at the
summer camp that Mia went to at the synagogue, She
teaches Hebrew at the temple and also at Chico State.
Mia and I went out to sushi with her and her son
several weeks ago. An all around good person, one that
I even considered introducing to you to last year.

So it just came out that she was arrested for
marijuana possession. And not a little bit. She was
caught shipping three pounds to Hawaii, they found 45
pounds of fully processed grass in her house along
with many plants in various stages of processing. The
report stated there was pot in every room of her house
in in several outbuildings. There was also a large
amount of cash and other drugs. She lived there with
her son. Now I see film of her on the news, arms
handcuffed to a chain around her waist, looking every
bit like a drug dealer. Very confusing, because she
is a very intelligent woman. She must also be a very
stupid woman. She put at risk everything that was
important and precious in her life, and she lost. She
is in jail now with high bail and it looks like she
will be there for a long time.

Most upsetting.

I can understand how it works. She had a crappy job that barely paid the rent and the person she bought her dope from suggested she could make a few extra dollars with very little risk, time, or trouble. She did. One thing led to another and she was making more and more money. Also, and I suspect this was crucial, people came to depend on her to provide them with dope for their own little businesses and she didn't want to disappoint them. At last she was able to provide for her son satisfactorily. The part about the "other drugs" may have been her losing control of what she was doing, or it could be a DA's lie to prejudice the potential jury pool against her. (If there really were "other drugs", why not say what they were?) If she is as smart as you say, some of the cash is already in the hands of her attorney and she will most likely not do time or if she does, not much, unless there is still mandatory sentencing for dealing. The law has changed so much and so often I have no clue what it is any more. She showed a severe lapse of judgment to take marijuana on an airplane knowing that the luggage might be searched or at least checked by dogs.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Dumping on the Times

Margaret Seltzer, the author of "Love and Consequences", a memoir of growing up in the slums of South Central Los Angeles, has admitted that it is a fabrication, that she is white, and that she grew up in prosperous Sherman Oaks. Her editor, Sarah McGrath, purported to be dumbfounded. Logically McGrath was the person who should have been responsible for ascertaining the accuracy and bona fides of her author.

Here is the comment I appended to the story in the New York Times:

I find it telling, or maybe just funny, that the person responsible for fact-checking was Seltzer's editor, Sarah McGrath. McGrath was so certain that what was politically correct was necessarily also factually correct that it didn't occur to her to check it. Sarah McGrath is immersed in, and indeed a product of, a political culture so smug and sure it has a monopoly of truth and a complete description of reality, that it has long ago stopped honestly examining its beliefs and even its facts.

Where could Ms. McGrath have imbibed such a culture? The answer is embedded in the article we just read. She learned at her father's knee, from her father Charles McGrath of the NEW YORK TIMES.

The NY Times stumbles from journalistic scandal to journalistic scandal and still lamely claims to be the Newspaper of Record, long after no one believes it. At the same time, the Washington Post, just as liberal a paper, has gone from past triumphs of unseating Nixon to modern ones of exposing the Walter Reed Military Hospital scandal. The WashPost has never to my knowledge had a journalistic scandal. Maybe the difference is that, unlike the Times, the Post's writers are not such arrogant bigots that they don't check their facts?

— jack kessler, San Francisco

Another Day Not At The Office

Saturday, March 01, 2008


One of the unexpected consequences of dating in old age (Why are amorous men called Romeos? Romeo was faithful to his Juliet. Killed himself rather than live without her. He was the most monogamous of men. But I digress.) is that one meets lots of people. Actually one meets lots of women which is both more interesting and much harder on the nerves and wits than it sounds.

Women are strange creatures, much stranger than men. Men are content with sex, beer, and whatever sport is in season. Women feel that the curtains aren’t quite right. They are prepared to spend a lot of their time, their trouble, and your money on the problem. Men have never noticed the curtains. “There are curtains?” But again, I digress.

First there is the selection problem. I use the analogy of a $20 dollar bill lying on Market Street. How long will it lie there? Not long. Everyone wants it. But a cigarette butt will lie on Market Street for quite a long time because no one wants it. The same is true of the dating-and-sometimes-marrying market. If a woman is in all ways desirable, she will be snatched up quickly. The first man acceptable to her will carry her off. Carry her off not only into the sunset on his beautiful white stallion, but also off the dating-and-sometimes-marrying market.

Which means that those remaining are those less desirable than the one last seen riding west. So they stay on the market longer. By simple economics, the more picked-over the women are, the less desirable the remaining ones are. The same should be true of the men as well, perhaps even more so.

Here the advantages of having an advanced degree and the associated intellectual super-duperiority come into play. That bleak prospect doesn’t actually work itself all the way out to its logical conclusion. Economics works when people behave rationally. But we don’t. Billions of dollars are spent on bottled water every year. On the Peninsula there is a large prosperous truck dealership with a huge sign declaring, “Size Matters!” How likely is it that the size in question is that of the trucks? Considering all the hay bales being hauled and livestock being transported on the Peninsula, how likely is it that there is any rational purpose for the trucks at all?

Date-and-mate seekers are the same. The woman who describes herself as “strong and outspoken” means that she is a bitch. Most men, rational men, would avert even their eyes from the virago. To re-brand a metaphor, a rational man needs a bitch like a fish needs a bicycle. Yet there are others, irrational men, who want just such women. They have someone to tell them what to do at work. They need someone to tell them what to do at home too. It is legendary that such couples make each other miserable but stay together for decades.

Many women like men who describe themselves as “strong and silent”. By which they mean inarticulate, stubborn, and haven’t had a thought of their own since 1981. And that they are drunken, depressed, and occasionally violent. You know, like Daddy.

So what makes someone stay on the dating market for a long time? The leading cause of lying on the Market Street sidewalk is the unconscious unwillingness to connect with anyone. The main difference between men and women is that men are generally conscious of not wanting to commit. Women generally are either unconscious of their unwillingness to commit, or they lie to themselves (and you) about it. The underlying reality is the same though.

The overlying reality is wildly different though. For example:

Scene: Several months ago I meet a woman online. She is witty, intelligent, writes well. I like her. She thinks the same of me. I ask her out. We meet at a fancy restaurant in Berkeley (has to be a public place because the guy is always an axe murderer until proven otherwise). As I have come to expect, her picture is 15 years and 30 pounds out of date. We have a lovely dinner, and enjoy each other’s company. I walk her to her car. She suggests my car. A naïf of 60, I don’t get it. After necking in the car for a few minutes (I would like to tell you it was like being 16 again but at 16 I had neither a girlfriend nor a car) she suggests my place. Off we go.

Chez moi there is the downstairs couch then the upstairs bedroom. She shows me why gays do it that way. (Facing each other – get your mind out of the gutter here….) This evening beomes this morning and life is fine.

It was like an unexpected birthday and I was looking forward to many happy returns of the day. I actually wrote in my diary the next day that the lady was a keeper. A few days later she called and pretty much demanded that I drop all other lady friends and see only her -- indefinitely.

Coming back to the purpose of the anecdote, her purpose was, I am convinced, to drive me away. She had to know what the answer had to be. That she chose a spectacularly roundabout way to do it doesn’t change the underlying logic. She has to have known that a commitment cannot be made in a single day, not even in a single night. I would like to think that I am such a prize that she was so smitten with me after a single meeting that she just had to have me, for the night and for keeps. But I don’t.