Friday, December 31, 2010

Life and death go on whether you like it or not.

Tuesday is the anniversary of my friend Tony’s death.  We are in the process of putting together an anniversary wake.

Living can get in the way.

Big Rick has to work so we are doing an in person pre-wake on Sunday and he will attend the Tuesday wake via Skype, appearing from his office via my MacBook on a table at the bar.  I wonder if we can do stereo Rick on Bill the Engineer’s MacBook?  Get a routine together Rick.

Then a friend informs me he may have to be in Florida as his mother may be close to the end.  Skype?  I don’t know.  Maybe we’ll have serial wakes.

I just know we’ll work it out one way or another.

And more life, one of my nieces is getting married in Mesa, AZ next weekend. 

Round and round.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sometimes it's hard to be a liberal commie pinko

I’ve spent yesterday and today researching WARN, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act in its federal and state forms.

Now I’m all in favor of the worker, the bedrock of our society.  But, you knew there was a but, right?

Putting it overly simplistically, the statute says that companies of a certain size (100 employees for the feds, 75 for the state) can’t lay off more than a third of their workers at any given location unless they give sixty days notice and the workers get pay, benefits, FICA and so on during the notice period.

So say you wanted to lay off 50 people because you don’t have anything for them to do and each of them makes an average of $700 a week, call it $1,000 with fringes.  You are going to spend $200,000 to do it at a point when you are losing money, the reason you want to lay them off in the first place.  (A good number of the court decisions about the statute are from bankruptcy court, which should tell you something about the statute’s effect on companies that fall victim to its provisions.)

And that catchy statute name with the word retraining in it?  Nothing in the statute deals with retraining workers.  The “adjustment” seems to be that the company, rather than the government, is paying unemployment benefits, for the first sixty days.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I side on the side of solitary.  I like spending time alone, inside my head or listening to music or watching a movie.  Part of that is habit, living alone for most of my life.

Even if I’ve enjoyed going to the bar or a restaurant with friends, there comes a time that I’ve had enough and want to retreat to the couch.

That said, there’s something to be said for people.  I spent the last long weekend in New Orleans with a friend and two new friends.

Even with friends and family, I can be standoffish, there, but not there.  Now and again, I engage.  I probably should do more of it.

I’ve written about it before; but, when you look at people and smile more often than not they smile back.  Double down and say something friendly, or better, funny, and the world is yours.

Do either or both in New Orleans and you are garonteed to have a good, good time.  I had a good time.

Without going all sociological, we are meant to be around other people.  You don’t get the full benefit of your time here going it alone.  I need to remember that more often.  Not a resolution or anything, just a thought.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Where have media companies been over the past couple of decades?

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is starting The Daily Paper next month for people with an iPad. The reported price is 99 cents a week for a “paper” pushed to you every morning. (The New York Times plans to do something similar next year.)

Given the way I read online, a bit here, a bit there, returning several times a day when I'm bored, this seems to me to be a step backwards as it won’t have the attraction of continuous updates to the news being reported; and, assuming The Times and others go the same route, it would make me go to several different places to get what I need, though I do have to do that now. It’s a return to hearing the “thunk” of the paper hitting the front porch as you’re waking up, without the accompanying tactile pleasure of holding real paper in your hands.

The days of reading “The Paper” are just about over if I’m any example. Most people with access to the internet get their news from a variety of sources. But, most people on the internet aren’t going to pay 99 cents here and another 99 there. They want a place to go.

Paying for online news is going to become a reality over the next couple of years. I really wish someone (Google, Apple, Amazon are you listening?) would get it right and aggregate everything that’s out there, charge me a reasonable price and let me have at it.

Google has the perfect model with the opposite of AdSense. Put everything behind a wall, charge the reader and distribute the money to those that get the hits. Quality (or at least popularity) gets paid and the also-rans drop out.
Apple’s iTunes or would be a second best model. Log on to “iNews” or “ANews” and buy what you want.

The days of the corner store started to end when the mall was invented. Amazon knew that when it built its online mall. Why don’t the media companies understand this?

I wish I had a billion bucks to bet on this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What's love got to do with it?

A writer for the New York Times argued recently that we “fall in love” with the software in electronic devices, seeing it as an extension of our brains, making the devices objects of our affection.

“[I]t should come as little surprise that people feel lost or actually grieve when they lose a personal electronic device. ‘You are leaving your brain behind….’”


I’m more tech oriented than many.  I bought one of the first “portable” computers, an Osborne (it was the size of a small suitcase, 4” screen, two 5 ¼” floppy drives with a total of 64k ram).  But the computer went into the closet when I started as a baby lawyer because my secretary typed 100 wpm.

I got my first Email account when clients started asking for my Email address.  Same for the first cell phone, I bought it when enough people asked for my number.

I didn’t make the decision on getting Internet access, we moved our office and the new place was wired.  Within a year or so there was enough online that I got a laptop to use at home and on the road.

The smart phones I’ve bought were the result of seeing that their features would be useful.

Did I mourn when a laptop got stolen or I switched computers?  I did bitch about having to transfer stuff, getting it from one “brain” to the next.

I’ll admit to liking a lot of the changes in electronics.  My first laptop was pretty cool when viewed next to my secretary’s clunky beige IBM 386 something or other.  The little Motorola Razr was kind of elegant in its day.  My Mac Mini and MacBook are much better looking and operate much better than their Dell predecessors.  I love multi-touch phone screens; but, I can’t see myself buying an iPad, as elegant as it is, anytime soon because it won’t do all the things my MacBook does.

But love?  It’s all stuff that does something I need done.  Once the initial fascination with the new features wears off, it’s a tool like a car or a TV or, pick your own example.  Better, stronger, faster as the narrator on the Six Million Dollar Man intoned; but, to be replaced somewhere down the line with the next better, stronger, faster thing.

Love?  I love the old, old drafting board that I bought for $25.00 thirty years ago.  It is a piece of art.  I love my Ping putter.  It fits my eye – it’s my eye’s fault not all the putts go in the cup.  I love the Grapes of Wrath and like paper books more than eReaders.  As much as I try, I can’t really concentrate on words on a screen as well as I can on words on a piece of paper.

The Times writer asks “[c]an you love an electronic device made of glass silicon and plastic?”  Nope, just what it can do and the next one will do better.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I just don't know anymore

It looks like Congress is on board with the two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts.  As I understand it, this will cost upwards of $800 billion in foregone tax revenue.   Even if I’m wrong by a hundred billion or so, that’s hundreds of billions more than the net cost of the original TARP bailout, you know, AIG, GM, Wall Street and so on.

Isn’t that the program that the Republicans ran against (even though it started with the Bush Administration)?

Everything I’m reading says the GOP and the Dems are just going to yell over the other guys heads leading up to the 2012 elections and no one is going to cut any meaningful spending.

Maybe it’s just me; but, if everyone agrees that we can’t continue what are crushing deficits which will only cascade if spending isn’t cut, what the hell are they doing increasing the deficit? 

W and Congress (and yes there were and are Dems in it) cut taxes with the idea that it would grow the economy which would result in more taxes being paid, reducing the deficit.  How did that work out, as the good Sarah would ask?

I’m too lazy to go find out how GDP, federal spending and tax revenue have changed but here’s the net result, the gross debt according to the Treasury Department:

09/30/2010 13,561,623,030,891.79
09/30/2009 11,909,829,003,511.75
09/30/2008 10,024,724,896,912.49
09/30/2007 9,007,653,372,262.48
09/30/2006 8,506,973,899,215.23
09/30/2005 7,932,709,661,723.50
09/30/2004 7,379,052,696,330.32
09/30/2003 6,783,231,062,743.62
09/30/2002 6,228,235,965,597.16
09/30/2001 5,807,463,412,200.06
09/30/2000 5,674,178,209,886.86

The last decade of government cost about $8 trillion more than it took in.  And we’re going to add 10% to that in the next day or two.  Then we’ll “talk” about cutting spending.  Of course, defense spending, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and all the other big ticket items are off the table, especially while our leaders are angling for political advantage. 

As Sarah would say, how ya think that’s going to work out?

I’d say we’re screwed.  We’ve met the enemy, the enemy is us – we want and we elect people that give us what we want.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Value of Learning Pronunciation from the Bowery Boys

 Big Rick and I were sitting at the bar a month or so ago and he said “that’ll put the kibosh on that!” (Short I sound, emphasis on the second syllable.) “Kibosh,” I said. ( Long I, emphasis on the first syllable.) We went back and forth with no resolution of the dispute.

I spent a lot of Saturday afternoons as a little kid watching things like reruns of the Bowery Boys. The “boys” had been making movies since the 1930’s in various incarnations. The constants were Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney (Leo Gorcey), Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones (Huntz Hall), Bobby (Bobby Jordan), Whitey (Billy Benedict), and Chuck (David Gorcey). (Later on the Gorcey brothers’ father, Bernard, played Louie Dumbrowski, the proprietor of the sweet shop where they hung out waiting for their adventures in their sanitized New York, blue collar neighborhood.) 

Rick, if he could bring himself to listen to the dreaded National Public Radio, would have gotten support for his pronunciation this morning. There was an exchange between the host and guest about the etymology of the word, with the guest using Rick’s ki BOSH pronunciation. Having learned my pronunciation from Slip Mahoney (when Whitey came into the sweet shop out of breath with news of what the bad guys in the next block were doing and Slip vowed “I’ll put the “KI bosh” on that!”) I was taken aback.

So, rather than working for the past hour, I’ve been researching the elusively pronounced word.

guy goes with me but can’t settle on an origin of the word (though, he mentions the origin promoted by the NPR guest – a kibosh was a “death cap” put on a body in a coffin in Ireland and evolved into putting an “end” to something).

Extensive surfing of dictionary sites finds none use Rick’s pronunciation. Slip Mahoney and I are the consensus winners.

So, you ask, the moral of the story is? Let your kids watch the classics and the dreck – an eclectic education gives them a fifty/fifty chance of being right when they argue with their Big Rick over a beer decades later.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Jimmy Stewart, where are you?

From Wikipedia, of course:

“In the modern filibuster, the senators trying to block a vote do not have to hold the floor and continue to speak as long as there is a quorum, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses. In the past, when one senator became exhausted, another would need to take over to continue the filibuster. Ultimately, the filibuster could be exhausted by a majority who would even sleep in cots outside the Senate Chamber to exhaust the filibusterers. Today, the minority just advises the majority leader that the filibuster is on. All debate on the bill is stopped until cloture is voted by three-fifths (now 60 votes) of the Senate. Some modern Senate critics have called for a return to the old dramatic endurance contest, arguing that the ease with which a nominal ‘filibuster’ can be staged (compared to the real suspension of business) has led to a progressively wider use of it and has contributed to perceived ‘gridlock.’”

A “procedural” vote for DADT failed today 57 to 40 in the Senate.   Note please that there were 57 of 100 Senators “voting to vote” on DADT.  They do these silly things because of the filibuster – once a person opposed says filibuster, you have to get 60 votes to end it to vote.  Then you only need 51 votes. Susan Collins and a couple of other Republican Senators say they’ll vote for it, someday, after they debate a long time.  These are the same Senators that signed the letter that said nothing was getting done until the Senate passed the extension of the Bush tax cuts.  Classic cross-examination:  “Were you lying then or are you lying now?”

Consensus is nice and as vestigial as the appendix.  If the Senate is going to give such great weight to historical methods, they ought to do it the way they used to.  Susan Collins and her friends should get up there and talk and talk and talk and do nothing else.  We can start a C-Span 3 or 4 or whatever the next number is.  All minority cranks, all the time.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Murder as a Political Question

A United States District Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit yesterday brought by a father who wanted to block the Obama Administration from killing his son, a U.S. citizen; so, the contract to off the son is still good.  (The Administration declines to admit or deny that it plans to kill the guy.)

Sounds terrible doesn’t it?  Let’s color the facts a little.  The guy is an alleged (and almost certainly is a) terrorist.  He left the country some years ago for Yemen and is allegedly involved with “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Judges have a lot of “doctrines” or rules for what cases get decided and how.  While this case involved several doctrines, the one of interest concerns “political questions.”  Overly simply put, courts will refrain from judging the conduct of elected officials – sometimes.  One of the areas of conduct that courts shy away from is national security, given that they feel ill equipped to make judgments.  To borrow a phrase from another area of law, the trial judge decided that he shouldn’t engage in “prior restraint” by second guessing the executive branch’s conclusion that the guy was such a threat to national security that he should be summarily killed.

There’s an existing body of law that allows soldiers to kill enemy soldiers and government agents to kill others who pose an immediate threat.  The logic is similar to validating a policeman’s judgment in shooting someone under some circumstances.  This decision though seems to greatly expand such discretion and pretty much do away with the requirement of an immediate threat.

“”The court recognizes the somewhat unsettling nature of its conclusion – that there are circumstances in which the Executive’s unilateral decision to kill a US citizen overseas is constitutionally committed to the political branches and judicially unreviewable,’ Bates wrote in his 83-page decision. ‘But this case squarely presents such a circumstance.’”

The judge “said the case would require him to ‘understand and assess the capabilities of the [alleged] terrorist operative to carry out a threatened attack, what response would be sufficient to address that threat, possible diplomatic considerations that may bear on such responses, the vulnerability of potential targets that the [alleged] terrorist may strike, the availability of military and nonmilitary options, and the risks to military and nonmilitary personnel in attempting application of non-lethal force.’”

Yes; but, isn’t that what judges do?

The terrible irony is that if the government wanted to tap the guy’s phone or computer, it would have to get a warrant.  Take his life?  Whatever they decide is just fine with the judge because determining whether they are justified is just too much work.

There’s a cliché that bad facts make bad law.  Refusing to look at the facts makes worse law.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Success doesn't necessarily result from smart (or, you can fool a lot of people a lot of the time)

President Obama is by any measure a smart person.

His presidency to date is pretty dismal no matter which view you take of it.

If you bought into that “hopey changey thing” you’ve been sorely disappointed.

President Obama, if he actually cares about civil liberties, has other things to do than promote them; indeed, he seems to be willing to attack them if he thinks the Republicans will let him sit at the lunch table with them.

Each and every one of his economic initiatives have benefited big business.  He apparently thinks trickle down is a viable economic policy, regular people just need to be patient (he must be an Augustinian scholar).

As it turns out he’s what the British call a backbencher.  By no means, for better or worse, is he a leader or a negotiator.

If you are a member of the GOP or a Tea Partier, you could do worse – just what has he done that has hurt you?  And, he serves as a useful false enemy to whip up the base and until recently placate the other side.

Our President is a failed Chicago Pol.  Everyone wants to work a deal don’t they?  We’ll just sit down, I’ll give some, you’ll…. Wait, you aren’t giving!  OK, here’s something else, now what do you say?

We have two more years of Bush Lite.  The scary thing is thinking about who is next.

Friday, December 03, 2010

John McCain to Pentagon: "Yo Mama!"

“We send these young people into combat; we think they’re mature enough to fight and die. I think they’re mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness.” 

John McCain at yesterday’s hearing on DADT.

Our young military members’ fathers and grand fathers weren’t too keen on a lot of people that weren’t like them.  Give women the vote?  Women, other than teachers and nurses, in the workforce?  Black people serving with white people in the military?  Integrated Schools? All recipes for disaster!

John McCain is ‘agin gays; but, he knows he can’t come out and say that.  So he wants the military to study the issue.  They do it and conclude that the world won’t end if gays are soldiers.  So, he says, the study is flawed, it didn’t address all of the issues, let’s listen more to what our brave young warriors have to say.

There is no perfect time to change the rules.  All of society will never buy into any given social change.  There are misogynists and racists in your neighborhood and they’ll still be around for decades, perhaps centuries to come, living next door to gay bashers.

But we’re making progress.  The fearful haters can’t just spew their bile, they have to couch their “arguments” in other terms.  You don’t hear the phases barefoot and pregnant, shiftless colored folk and the like in polite society much anymore.  The emotions are still there in some; but, they’ve been driven underground.  Sen. McCain is finding himself behind the curve and he’s none too happy.  Here’s to his continuing unhappiness.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Go All In on Taxes?

Brinksmanship – noun, the technique or practice of maneuvering a dangerous situation to the limits of tolerance or safety in order to secure the greatest advantage, esp. by creating diplomatic crises.

I think it may be useful to look at what Republican Senators are doing this week in terms of table stakes poker.  “We aren’t doing a damn thing until Obama and the Democrats fold on extending the Bush tax cuts.”

Obama is probably going to fold facing the “all in” bet.  But should he?

The key word here is extension.  If there isn’t a bill passed to extend the current tax rates, the old tax rates kick in as the 2001 statute had a sunset date, December 31, 2010. Then the millionaires and billionaires and crotchety old Mr. Smith down the street go back to paying more taxes.  According to Yahoo News “[t]he current six rate brackets of 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% will be replaced by five new brackets with the higher rates of 15%, 28%, 31%, 36% and 39.6%.”  (For more on the changes read the Yahoo article here)

There are a lot of people that don’t pay any federal income tax; and, guess what, most of them are the poor and working poor.  So, changing the brackets won’t have any effect on them. 

Who’ll get hit?  Middle and upper middle class people, you know the people making a pretty good living, making say $100,000 to $250,000 a year (the ones that Obama and the Dems want to shield).

A lot of them identify with the Tea Party, Kiwanis, the Chamber of Commerce and so on.  It wouldn’t surprise me if most of them voted for Republicans last month.

These are the people that watch Fox News, listen to Limbaugh and subscribe to Palin’s Twitter feed.  Down with taxes, we’re the Tea Party!  If their tax burden ox is gored, will they turn on their ultra-rich brethren on Wall Street and in the corporate offices of the drug companies and banks?  Might there be a softening of GOP militancy?

The Republican attempt to shut down the government didn’t work back in the 90’s.  If Obama develops some balls, it just may not work this month.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Getting the Little People Back on Their Feet

News reports today are doing sound bites on the Republicans’ refusal to extend unemployment benefits for about 2 million people about to lose them.  The GOPpers say they are sympathetic; but, that any money spent on these long-term unemployed must come from some other current recipients of government largesse.  (That’s not exactly how they phrased it.)  In short, no borrowing says Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, it has to come from the “savings account” of current spending not the “credit card” of deficit spending.

Sounds good – good sound bite.

At the same time, the Republicans are holding firm to their conviction that rich people deserve equal protection when it comes to the Bush tax cuts; after all they are the engine of economic recovery, the investors that must be motivated to jump start our return to greatness.  They neglect to say that maintaining the tax cuts requires the government to use the “credit card” of continuing deficit spending.  I’m not hearing any clamor to cut government spending from the “savings account” to match the amount of taxes that won’t be collected.

I suppose they have a point, Wall Street bonus babies were in the news last week with stories about how they were going to spend their seven figure year end checks.  I especially liked the one about hiring a midget for a buddy’s bachelor party.  It’s good to see that some little people are reaping the benefit of Republican economic policy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

One More Unpleasant Thing

Try as I might, I can’t get worked up about the latest TSA dust up.

I hate flying and have hated it for years now.  I cope with it by turning off my outward senses, going with the flow as it were.  I wend my way through the crowds, entering the maze at the end of which sits a TSA person with their little black light pen and colored ink marker.  While negotiating the maze, I pull out my license and boarding pass, put what’s in my pants and shirt pockets into my jacket pockets and start unzipping the laptop case.

After saying thanks to the TSA person (what can I say, I was raised to be polite, saying thanks is almost an involuntary reaction to any encounter with a person – as a bonus you usually get a return nod, smile or a thanks or all three), I get in the next line to go through one of the magnetometers, and now maybe a full body phone booth thingy.

As we get closer to the tubs, tables and roller, people bunch up, I’ve never quite figured out why.  I take two tubs.  Shoes go on the bottom of one (except when TSA switches things up and tells you to put them on the belt or in their own tub), jacket gets folded and goes in, laptop out and in its tub and I’m ready to go.  At some point in this process, the person behind me will almost always hit my heels with their rolling suitcase and/or shove their first tub into my hand which is on the back end of my last tub. 

Then there’s the person that charges through the magnetometer, not waiting for the high sign from the TSA person.  Go back Sir or Madam.  Now come ahead. Next, step right up.

Then I go through the bumping and shoving routine again while picking up the freshly X-rayed belongings. 

Adding ten seconds in one of the new phone booths to the mess just doesn’t seem like a much greater affront to my dignity.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

With Apologies to Many

When I was in confirmation class, I don’t remember how the subject came up but I asked the Pastor about Jonah and the Whale.  I’d read (not in my Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod grade school science book) that whales have baleen and can’t swallow anything much larger than a krill.

Silence, and on to the rest of the day’s lesson.

You are living on the shore of the Mediterranean in the year 0 (or a year or so later depending on the chronology your progeny subscribe to).  It’s December 24 (or perhaps another day of the year, again depending).  Everything is pretty good.  You are a Jew, doing what all your neighbors do, worshiping your God as prescribed by the local powers that be.

You wake up the next day and you don’t know it but everything has changed.  I know, it took a long time for the Triune God concept to become mainstream.  But it did change that day didn’t it?  Jesus was born.  Or maybe it was thirty-three years later on a Friday, or maybe a Sunday, the sacrifice and the ascension have taken place.  Now everything changes, right?

And of course it didn’t.  But what’s an ancestor of Christianity supposed to do?  At what point are you an upstanding member of the religious community only to find yourself an unbeliever?

God, the Christian God, is in charge of this.  When did He decide that you aren’t going to Heaven if you don’t buy into the change He made that He didn’t tell you about?

I suppose Hell is OK today for those of us that have had centuries to accommodate our beliefs and haven’t.  But, isn’t it a little unfair to flip a switch way back then and change the rules?  And the switch did have to be flipped didn’t it?  Otherwise it doesn’t make sense, right?  Or is it that the whole thing doesn’t make sense?

Why shouldn’t it make sense?

Why is it that almost all religions when you strip the ground rule trappings away say pretty much the same thing?  Love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others, don’t do the bad stuff like kill and so on.  Rephrase the teachings as it suits you.  They are of course societal rules, creating norms that allow us to live together smoothly, more often than not.

Does that mean that there is one God, who’s content if you live a good life?  Or is creating a god a human need, something missing in our short lives that cries out for an afterlife where everything is better?  Or, God Forbid, so to speak, are only the Christians (or a flavor thereof) or Buddhists or so on right?  And if there is a category of belief that is Right, I sincerely hope some Taliban or Iranian religious guy or the Glenn Beck’s and Sarah Palin’s of the world haven’t nailed it.  That would be truly sad.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I was reminded of one of the reasons for Thanksgiving

I just saw a commercial in which a woman’s voice said “don’t forget Mrs. So and So” and the guy was shown with his snow blower clearing a sidewalk.

When my parents were older their neighbor used to come over with his tractor and cut grass and blow snow.

Neighbors can be good; and, it isn’t necessarily true that good fences make good neighbors – he went out on to the road to get next door – no fence just a lot of trees he didn’t want to damage.

Not to mention the flats of fresh strawberries he used to leave on the porch during harvest, and all the other things a good neighbor does because it is what they do.

Since I haven’t thanked you, and it is the season, Gene, you made my parents’ life a bit easier and better.  (Tim if you read this, let him know.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I’m reading that Republicans are between a rock and a hard place on earmarks. 

Their rambunctious supporters in the Tea Party are against government spending of all kinds, including earmarks.  But veteran politicians know that bringing home the bacon from Washington is a large part of getting re-elected.

And, of course, all Republicans are against wasteful government spending (as long as the spending isn’t being wasted on the military, being spent to shore up their support by the rich, to buy agri-business support with crop subsidies and so on).

What to do?

You redefine what you’ve been doing.  Georgia’s Sen. Saxby Chambliss is going to vote for the pending earmark moratorium.  He says he’s always been against wasteful spending and earmarks*; but, you knew there was a but, didn’t you?

“However, there are times when crises arise or issues come forth of such importance to Georgia, such as critical support to the port of Savannah, and the nation that I reserve the right to ask Congress and the president to approve funding.”

Here, and I always thought the way you ask your colleagues and the President to spend money was to have a vote.  I guess voting would get in the way if the money is critical to Georgia or the nation.

So, let’s sum up.  Earmarks and wasteful spending are bad.  But, if a politician decides something’s important or there’s a crisis that requires spending money, that’s not wasteful.  The politician is honor bound to spend away by way of an earmark or otherwise.

And look at it this way, the money is relative pocket change.  The U.S. population last year was about 305 million people.  Money spent on earmarks was $19.9 billion (  That’s only $65.24 a head.  Would make for a hell of a Christmas spending stimulus though – Federal gift cards to all, and to all a good time.

*”Chambliss has been the sole sponsor on 47 earmarks worth $580.5 million from fiscal year 2008-2010. He has been a co-sponsor [of] 313 earmarks worth $1.7 billion. His name has appeared on $2.3 billion worth of earmarks.”  From an AP article.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making the Internet Work for You

I’m going to New Orleans for the Christmas weekend. 

Since I gamble a bit, I stay free at Harrah’s hotels or their “partners.”  But Harrah’s New Orleans has gotten cheap lately – I apparently don’t gamble enough for a free room at Christmas.  But they were going to give me a “deal.”  I booked it at the Hilton Riverside through Harrah’s.  Then I thought to check the hotel’s own site.  $40 a night cheaper.  Great deal Harrah’s, and thanks.

Then I decided to look a little further.  Nothing good at all the rates, other than the auction stuff, which I’m not willing to do, were more expensive than the actual hotel sites.

So I tried  It wanted $10 more than Hilton wanted; but, it had an amazingly good deal at Country Inns and Suites, $26 cheaper than the Hilton (and $56 cheaper than booking the room directly with the hotel’s website).  Same distance from the casino and closer to the French Quarter.

So, I have free WiFi, free breakfast and free cocktails in the afternoon and probably a bit smaller room for $65 bucks a night less.  I’m a happy camper.  Thanks nice Indian lady that goes by “Alex” at

Commander’s Palace, Casemento’s, Murial’s, here I come.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is the TSA all that bad?

I flew from New Orleans to Atlanta earlier this week.

The security line was medium long, not unexpected because it was the tail end of morning rush hour.  As we got to the magnatometors, there were two lines, or so it seemed.  As it turned out there were three, as one split off from the right line – but you couldn’t really tell that from where people chose a line. 

Then, the TSA lady shut down the line that split off, trapping a couple in it.  The TSA lady kept saying something that I wasn’t paying much attention to as I wasn’t involved.  I do know that what she was saying in a heavy Louisiana accent wasn’t clear.  It wasn’t at all clear to the couple who were unfortunately New York City types.

The couple finally figured out what she was saying (they were cut off and had to move to the other side of the table to go through the second of now only two machines).  They expressed their ire.  She told them she had told them three times.  They expressed their ire.  She told them they should be quiet or they “might not be flying anywhere.”  They gave venomous looks, she threw a haughty look, left and we all looked around at each other.

Cultural disconnect I suppose, with a gratuitous “I’ll let you know who is boss” parting shot.

All that said, that is the first time I’ve ever seen a TSA person acting close to stupidly in the ten years I’ve been flying since 9/11.  In that same time, I've seen them dealing with stupid people, clueless people, handicapped people, parents with screaming kids and so on, all with often some resignation, but usually with equinamity.

How ‘bout you?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Now what?

I haven’t gotten the full flavor of post-election GOP joy and Dem depression, having been waylaid by a 24-hour bug.  But, as best I can tell, Obama and the rest of the Dems say they are willing to compromise (they’ve said, but not done much of that since January of 2009) with the GOP folks.  The GOP folks say that of course they’re willing to compromise, they always have been (despite a record of being the Party of No).

But, let’s look at what has changed.  Obama is still in office.  The Dems control the Senate, with a few less votes; but, they are still in charge.  The GOP controls the House.  What’s changed?

I’d posit that nothing’s changed.  Running the House just makes it easier for the GOP to say no.  It doesn’t give them the necessary votes to actually do much of anything unless the Dems go along.  Both sides will begin immediate jockeying for 2012.  Neither side is going to put itself out on a limb that can be sawed off by the other side.  Indeed, I’d bet the GOP will do more nay saying and try to set up vetoes by Obama to provide campaign fodder.

While Rome burns, both sides will be scheming to rule the ashes.

But there may be a surprise on the way.  Remember all that stimulus money?  Remember how the GOP whined and groaned about how it was the ruination of all that’s good in America?  Remember how a lot of it found its way to state governments who used it to balance their budgets, enabling them to continue services and not raise taxes?

There won’t be billions to throw around for state 2011 and 2012 budgets:

So, what are state governments and their dependent cities and counties going to do?  They are going to cut services and raise taxes for all those tea party folks that voted for them. 

The result?  I’m not sure.  People are going to bitch; but, who are they going to bitch at?

All of the national GOP people are saying they want to cut taxes.  I suppose they’ll argue come 2012 there hasn’t been enough time for the benefits to trickle down (sound familiar?), if they renew the Bush tax cuts and blame the Dems if they don't.  The Dems are going to argue that they were right in the first place, look at all the suffering that has resulted.

And if the economy is still in the dumper, I’ve got money (not confidence) on the GOP in 2012.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I listened to a guy talking to another guy today.  He was sufficiently loud for me to hear most of what he said.  The other guy pretty much nodded and said uh huh.

The guy announced that he called himself Chef So and So, so as to differentiate himself from people that cooked that had not bothered to go to culinary school.  He went on and on about his restaurants (note that plural) until I quit paying attention.

I’ve written before about labels, I think they’re a bad idea – they get in the way of people actually talking.

Titles aren’t a good idea either.  I am an “Attorney at Law.”  It says so on my business card; and, I have a license and all that.  I have never referred to myself as such.  Not even as an Attorney.  If asked, and forced to answer, I tell people I’m a lawyer.

Maybe I’m being a reverse snob; but, I’m thinking you ought to demonstrate your abilities, not announce what you think they are by labeling yourself.

I’ve always hated when a receptionist or nurse says “Doctor will see you now.”  Not Doctor Smith.  Not the doctor.  No, he or she is so important the title itself says it all. 

Of course you've heard "Chef has prepared a wonderful special tasting menu for guests tonight" or something of the sort.

An inside insight:  Not all Attorneys at Law are all that good at being lawyers.  Some people with an M.D. got C’s.  Professor (or in an academic setting Full) Professor Jones may well not live up to the hype of the title.  I've had some pretty poor, pretty expensive food from a Chef or three.  

People that insist on titles are compensating.  Keep it in mind when you are judging them.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Health Care Voting Tip

Whether you call it “Obamacare” and think it is the unholy work of spawn of the Devil or think health care reform is long overdue, with the reform law not going far enough, you can influence the implementation of the law tomorrow in the voting booth.


“Voters in four states, including Georgia and California, will directly elect an insurance chief on Tuesday. And in nearly three dozen other states, whoever is elected governor will name the commissioner.”

Elected or appointed, that person will have a lot of say on the matter going forward.

“[U]nder the federal health law, state insurance chiefs will have a long list of new consumer protections to enforce. For example, starting in 2014, health plans can't charge women or sicker people more.

“They're also helping to write the regulations for their own expanded powers. Congress left it up to an obscure group — the National Association of Insurance Commissioners — to essentially decide critical details, such as what health plans can claim as actual medical care vs. administration and profit.”

Here’s a tidbit from the website,, of the GOP candidate here in Georgia:

“There are solutions to our on-going health care crisis, but they will need to come from the private sector. Government provided health care has failed in England, Canada, and everywhere else it has been tried. You need to ask the recipients of our Medicare and Medicaid programs, VA healthcare, and all other government provided programs if they like their results. Why would we think that a single payer, government system for all Americans would do any better?”

Think he’s going to be a big supporter of the new law?  I don’t.  One more little thing to think about, brought to you as a service by Rather Than Working.

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.