Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is the sky falling; or, will the sun come out on Tuesday?


I’m not reading or listening to punditry, beyond a few headlines, recently.  The headlines are telling me all sorts of speculative horrors, depending on what you fear.

It seems clear that Dems are going to be down in the House and the Senate, how much is unclear.

The sky isn’t falling and Tuesday is going to be cloudy.  Why?

Nationally, the Dems were ineffectual for the last two years, getting little done, blocked effectively at each turn by filibustering, Party of No GOPpers.  Said minority, though probably about to pick up a majority in the House, won’t be doing anything either – they don’t have the block of votes to overcome themselves (and the insurgent party of Hell No – the Tea Party folks), much less the Dems in the Senate and the big guy in the White House.  Get ready for big time gridlock, slowing even more in about a year as everything gears up for the 2012 main event.

The economy is not going to come roaring back.  At best it will continue to get better in little bits with small tweaks from the feds, all that will happen with a divided government.

For 2012 the Dems will argue, see, the GOP hasn’t helped.  The GOP will argue, having done nothing substantive about getting rid of health care reform or doing anything about their immigration bogeymen, that the Dems were being obstructionists, thwarting the will of the people.  The tea party will realize, maybe, that they were co-opted by people that have no intention of doing what they want done, the aforesaid dumping of the health care law and getting rid of the damned foreigners.

Obama will squeak by in 2012 unless the GOP has someone, that I haven’t seen yet, that can pander to the right wing and the tea party folks enough to get nominated and then seem rational enough to the independent voters who will decide things.

Now, I have to start thinking about the local elections here in the Peach State.  I’m not too concerned with who gets in.  The incumbent GOP folks will continue running things here, railing about all the national stuff mentioned above, coming up with a couple of Arizona style state immigration bills that may or may not pass and then will throw up their hands at how to pay for state government without the billions in hated federal bailout money that is no longer available to avoid the hard choices.

Let me know if I missed anything in a couple of years.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dear WABE,

As I start typing, there are just over two hours left in your current pledge drive.  (Can I hear an Amen?)

Of course, that I’m annoyed by your twice a year begging means that I’m listening to you enough to become annoyed with the sonorous voice of your COO whose name I can’t remember, Ira Glass and Alec (Alex?) Baldwin (I thought he was moving out of the country a decade ago). 

I should tell you I like some of your changes recently.  More local reporting, most of which is pretty good.  More news and feature shows on the weekend, displacing boring classical music.

You are nowhere near as moribund as your public TV siblings here in Atlanta.  You have nothing as bad as the bad oldies music shows produced by T.J. Lubinsky and don’t have a policy of continually replaying programs, which are continually interrupted by begging.

I know you have to do the begging stuff; but, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  I give, not the most, but probably more than most, so I get to complain.

You do have Lois Reitzes – I’m always worried she’s going to pass out midway in a sentence during one of her long pauses.  If you are going to play classical music, why not have a host that engages your audience?

Better yet, why do you have classical music?  If what I suspect a dwindling number of your listeners want it, it’s available in many places on line. When I travel I am reminded that there is a wonderful world of great news and feature programs available on public radio across the country, only a small fraction of which you carry.  There are a lot of cities that have a public radio station that airs only news and features.  Isn’t Atlanta big enough to have one of those?

Make you a deal – go all news and features and it will triple my listening and my donation.

And one last thing, please quit telling me you don’t have any advertising when every few minutes you tell me that a particular show is underwritten by a list of corporations and law firms.  Kismet – I just listened to one of those lists.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Contrarian View of Clint McCance

Clint is an idiot.  And an angry idiot.

But he could be a useful idiot. 

I’ve said in the past that if we are going to kill people as a society, we ought to do it publicly, like we did it in the past.  Hang, electrocute, inject if you will; but, do it in the new public square: televise it, put it on YouTube, record the sounds the person makes and put them in the Android Market and Apple whatever it is.  Make little kids watch and listen along with their parents.  Have a discussion, explain to the little kids why this is a good thing.

I think Clint should keep on raving,  Don’t’ recall him or fire him or whatever you do to a school board member.  Let him rave on and report it all in all of its hatefulness.  Then talk about it.   Explain it to your children, if you’re on Clint’s side, that you want their friend down the street to die.  Oh, you don’t really want them to die?  Explain why it’s all right for good ole Clint to rant about it.

It seems we are reaching, still reaching, for a critical mass on whether gay people are worthy of respect.  We’ve done it before with other minorities, hearing the hate thrown at them.  Maybe the hate hastens the necessary revulsion that needs to be felt to make the next change.

Very Much Worth Reading

An article found by Jim Donahue of The Velvet Blog fame (see the Recommended sidebar)

All Programs Considered

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Does FOX News have a point?

Juan Williams is now with FOX News and not with NPR.  NPR has taken a big hit from most quarters for his firing, and especially for the way he was dumped.

NPR showed some really poor judgment in the way it parted ways with him and may be wrong on the merits.

Whichever way you fall on those issues, the incident raises another issue.

A lot of conservatives are calling for defunding NPR using the argument that taxpayer money should not be used to support a partisan news organization.  Even if NPR can’t really be categorized as “partisan,” should all of us pay for something used by only some of us?

A quick answer is, we do it all the time. 

I haven’t been in a library in years but a little bit of my money goes to support them.  And libraries spend money in ways I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t buy any romance novels.  The City of Atlanta, like other governments, requires 1% of public construction money to be spent on “art.”  I’ve seen very little public art that I like.  I don’t have kids who use schools ... (you get the idea).

There are lots of laws that limit the use of public money for purposes – stem cell research, Planned Parenthood, buying Chinese steel for public construction projects -  that are value driven.

We spend, and limit spending, taxpayer money with the idea that it will result in overall benefit to all of us.  A literate, educated society is a better society.  Art enriches us all.  Buying “American” keeps American people employed.  We shouldn’t mess with God’s plans for us.  Check off the values you agree with.

As a lawyer, it’s distressing to say that these value decisions have nothing to do with law and everything to do with political judgment.  If most people want bad public art, so be it.  If using stem cells to advance medical science breaches a widely held ethical or religious belief,  cut off the funds and explain the results to your children and grandchildren.

If public money for boring classical music and (fill in the blank ____ good ____ bad) news reporting floats or sinks your boat, vote and politic accordingly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don't learn or achieve or you won't be in touch with America

I think that the author of the linked article (a kind reader reports that the link doesn't work - here's the URL:  ( hasn’t read the extreme end result of his posit:  Atlas Shrugged.  He says that there is something wrong with smart people, achieving people hanging with each other, marrying each other and raising yet a new generation of even more of the same.  That’s what this article seems to be saying; and, I‘ve read it couple of times.

“The more efficiently a society identifies the most able young people of both sexes, sends them to the best colleges, unleashes them into an economy that is tailor-made for people with their abilities and lets proximity take its course, the sooner a New Elite -- the "cognitive elite" that Herrnstein and I described -- becomes a class unto itself. It is by no means a closed club, as Barack Obama's example proves. But the credentials for admission are increasingly held by the children of those who are already members. An elite that passes only money to the next generation is evanescent ("Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," as the adage has it). An elite that also passes on ability is more tenacious, and the chasm between it and the rest of society widens.


“The bubble that encases the New Elite crosses ideological lines and includes far too many of the people who have influence, great or small, on the course of the nation. They are not defective in their patriotism or lacking a generous spirit toward their fellow citizens. They are merely isolated and ignorant. The members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it.”

So, must the country’s elite not achieve?  Must we engage in affirmative action for the intellectually challenged?  What is the societal result of either or both paths?  The author seems to be arguing for the ascendency of Beck’s and Palin’s America.

I’m past my prime.  But before I hit it, I thought there was an aspiration on the part of my parents and relatives that the next generation would do a bit more than they had been able to do, in whatever way “a bit more” turned out.

I think that’s changing as evidenced by articles like this that attack people that don’t hang on Oprah’s every word, think that knowing who is a NASCAR star is not all that important, or have not had the obvious benefit of having read a romance novel.  Don’t trust the “elites;” though, do take the benefits of what they’ve given our society, the author seems to say.

America seems to be reveling in xenophobic populists, momma grizzlies and pundits that can cry on cue, a national downward aspiration if you will.

In a way it’s understandable.   Reagan said all those homey, warm things and for a while, rampant capitalism lifted all boats.  The second Bush had promise for underachieving America, “he’s one of us,” until he and his GOP buddies spent like they were trying to gain admission to the left wing of the Democratic Party in an uninformed, desperate attempt to rein in what Reagan had started.  Obama?  Wrong place, wrong time, same failed gifting of money to the people with money in hopes that it would trickle down to “the people,” keeping the boat afloat.

So what do Reagan (though he’s been gone for long enough to not be castigated), Bush and Obama have in common?  They’re elites, insulated from “Real America.”  We’ve had enough of smart achievers!  We’re for the O’Donnells, Palins, Becks of the world.  They understand us, and they’re against “them.”

People are good and bad, rich and poor, tall and short, and so on.  When did it become a bad idea to learn and achieve, whatever your other characteristics are?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Give to NPR and tell Fox News

I’ve always wondered about Juan Williams on Fox News.

Juan Williams, an NPR “analyst” is also a Fox News “analyst,” something I’ve never quite understood.  I’ve heard him on both outlets and have noticed a disconnect.  He’s a bit more out there on Fox, a bit more thoughtful on NPR.

As of today he can be as out there as he wishes on Fox as NPR dumped him.  Go off and read the stories about why he was dumped if you haven’t already heard.

Many readers will disagree with me; but, NPR and PBA TV are pretty much the only “fair and balanced” news broadcasters that I hear and see.  They don’t do the talking head yelling thing if they can help it (it occasionally happens on the PBS News Hour) and they almost never run a piece that is shilling for one side of an issue.  The news that they carry isn’t biased as near as I can tell.   I can’t say anything like any of that about Fox or MSNBC (I haven’t watched network news in years).

To my mind, you’ve pretty much lost a lot of credibility if you work for either Fox or MSNBC.  It’s pretty much a given that you are doing the right thing if Newt and Sarah and Mike H. attack you as they are attacking NPR.  I’d almost be willing to watch O’Reilly and Hannity tonight to see what they come up with; but, it will be quicker to read the lowlights tomorrow.   Rush, I’m sure is drooling waiting for tomorrow’s show.

It’s fund drive season for public broadcasting here in Atlanta.  If you are being inundated by cheesy begging where you are, give them a buck or two and tell Fox you did it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So, what should we have spent the money on?

I don’t know if the numbers are accurate then or now but, it’s interesting that if they are close, all of the money being spent to mitigate the recession is offset by what would have been saved had we not been after non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” and not been so anal about rooting out bin Laden:

According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report published in October 2007, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion dollars by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money. The CBO estimated that of the $2.4 trillion long-term price tag for the war, about $1.9 trillion of that would be spent on Iraq, or $6,300 per U.S. citizen.
Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economicw, has stated the total costs of the Iraq War on the US economy will be three trillion dollars in a moderate scenario, and possibly more in the most recent published study, published in March 2008. Stiglitz has stated: "The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion. Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions...Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States. It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq."

From a Wikipedia article.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Tease Comes to the Internet

You’re of course familiar with radio and TV teases:  “After the break, we’ll tell you about blah, blah, blah.”  I once came up with the idea of timing the “news” and the teases during a newscast but it didn’t seem worth the trouble.

The phenomenon seems to have made its way to online media.  Both the Journal Constitution and Creative Loafing here in Atlanta seem to be spending more time telling me what I’ll find on the site than they spend telling me what they know.

Instead of having a link to an AJC reporter’s piece on whatever, I’m finding more and more that there’s an interstitial piece that tells me about an article that I’ll just love if I click here.  Why not just list the articles with a description on the home page and be done with it?

Creative Loafing’s food honcho is Besha Rodell.  Lately, you won’t find links to the other food writers’ pieces on the food page.  You have to click on her post that tells you what a good time you’ll have if you click on the other writers’ posts.  Doesn’t she have better things to do, like go eat some food and write a review?

Then there’s the “click to read more” gambit.  You read an article and click to go to the next page only to find that there is no actual next page, just another click to get to the comments.  On my phone, the AJC loves to have multiple page stories, each “page” consisting of two or three paragraphs.  Do they think that their advertisers don’t know they are inflating their page views?

Now I know that there’s a happy medium to be obtained between page length and loading time; but,, on a computer and on a phone, seldom makes you click to a “next page” unless it’s a really, really long article.  Better software or less manipulation?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Unscientific Medical Opinion

NPR did a piece a couple of weeks ago that included the fact that if you have two dentists look at X-rays, they differ in their diagnosis of cavities to the tune of 50%.  They also go ahead and do the filling and never tell you that they made a mistake and drilled a tooth that didn’t have a cavity.  Today in an NPR “letters” segment, dentists expressed their umbrage.  You can read more by a Google search of “NPR dentist.”

I happen to agree with the idea that dentists are money, not treatment, driven.

Three anecdotes.

Some years back my dentist suggested that I go to a periodontist to find out if I needed a procedure.  As it turns out I did, then I didn’t.  The periodontist scheduled the procedure and his staff submitted it to my insurance company.  Said company wouldn’t pay.  His scheduler then called to set up an appointment for another, less extensive procedure, surprise, that my insurance company would pay for.  I declined.  The guy had the balls to try to bill me for his time to offer me his medical opinion that I should undergo the procedure that my insurance company would pay for rather than the first uncovered, but recently medically necessary, procedure.  All my teeth and their associated gums, with brushing and flossing, are still in my mouth.

More years back a dentist told me that two back teeth with fillings desperately needed to be capped.  Said teeth, with their fillings are still in my mouth.

Yet another dentist, more recently, tried to make me agree to full mouth X-rays in a first visit before he would allow his hygienist to clean my teeth.  I declined.  I was presented with a waiver of liability form to sign.  I declined and started to leave.   The dentist magically appeared and agreed to allow the hygienist to clean my teeth without X-rays and without me signing the waiver form.  I declined.

I don’t trust dentists.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Item From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" File

A letter to the editor in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution:


“Put retina eye scanners in convenience stores

“Everyone has to eat and purchase gas, sodas or other grocery items. Most, if not all people, frequent convenience stores weekly. With the installation of retina eye scanners and thumbprint readers (paid for with remaining stimulus funds) in every convenience store in America, we can ferret out wanted persons, or those people who are here illegally.

“Over time, we could include drugstores, grocery stores, banks and other businesses. We would simply require every person who enters any convenience store to step up to the scanner and place their thumb in the reader. Show your proof of identification. No match? No purchase.”

The Bill of Rights aside, what a great idea to get rid of bad guys and illegals:  starve ‘em.  “Sorry Rocco and Pedro, no Slurpee for you.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another Reason I'm Not a Good Lawyer

We are in the midst of an almost national moratorium on house foreclosures because of lenders cutting corners in the process of kicking people out of their houses.

Unless there is some compelling error, oversight, or more onerous conduct on the part of the lenders, the people didn’t pay what they owe and when it’s all over with, the people are still going to be out of their houses, after a lot of lawyers make a lot of money and politicians make their points.

Does the process need to be fixed?  Of course; but, lawyers and politicians are mostly getting in the way now that the problem has been identified.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


I’m going to Muscatine, Iowa tomorrow.  For those of you, like me, that didn’t know where that was:  it’s 45 minutes from Moline, Illinois by car.  The boring details of the trip involve depositions which, I suppose involve some persistent questioning, though that’s not what this post is about.

I’m flying AirTran.  I bought the ticket last week online. is an OK e-commerce site.  Except for one thing.  You have to tell it numerous times that you don’t want to buy things that you didn’t have to buy a couple of years ago.  Namely, the right to pick a seat.

When you buy you are asked, after you’ve bought “a seat,” if you’d like to choose a particular seat.  Say yes and it will cost you anywhere from $6 to upwards of, I think $20 for an exit row seat.  Say no and you could end up in a middle seat at the back of the plane unless you know how to play the game.

I’m a bit reluctant to tell my secret for getting an aisle seat for free; but, I can’t think of anything else to write about.

24 hours before your flight takes off (and I mean 24 hours, not 24 hours and 1 minute), you can go online to pick a seat.  The site will tell you can buy a first class upgrade for between $49 and $129 depending on the length of the flight.  Click no.  It will then offer to again sell you a particular seat (see the third paragraph for details).  Click no.  It will then offer an icon to “pick your seat.”  Click the icon.  Here AirTran makes one last try for a bit more of your money, asking if you want to pay $10 for the privilege of boarding first with the disabled, those with young children and people in first class.  Click no.  Pick one of many open aisle seats shown on a little diagram of the plane.

Now you are home free and can print a boarding pass, which so far, they haven’t figured out a way to make money from.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Is "pro-business" a code word?

News Corp., the parent of Fox News, just gave a million bucks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Not too long ago it gave a bunch of money to the Republican Governors Association.  Target and Best Buy gave a bunch of money to some organization or other.  All of said recipients give the money to Republicans.  All of the donors deny that they are interested in social issues – they aren’t anti-gay (Target and Best Buy  love gay people, well maybe not that way) for example.  They give, they all say because these groups and the beneficiaries of their largesse are “pro-business.”

But, the GOP gives Obama flak for the $700 billion TARP program to bailout Wall Street, insurance and auto companies and other big businesses (a program that is reported to now cost maybe only $50 billion, and if we’re lucky actually make money for the government when the accounting is done).  It would seem to me that TARP was “pro-business.”

The GOP gives Obama flak for the health care bill.  The bill will expand health spending for millions of people.  Don’t businesses provide the care, and charge for it?  So, isn’t the health care law “pro-business.”

Why don’t the mega companies give money to the “pro-business” Dems?  I think they have a different definition than I do.