Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Sha Na Na.

Most of these guys, after their at least semi-successful showbiz careers, went on to become doctors, lawyers, university professors -- meaningful contributors to society (obligatory crack: maybe not the lawyers); whereas the usual route for such people would have been to milk their modest fame for the rest of their lives. Most of the members seem to have been Jewish, and from New York.

Eventually, someone is going to have to investigate New York's Jewish culture from the period of about 1900 - 1960. Something they were doing turned out an astonishing crop of successful, useful people, who excelled in literally every academic, business, scientific, and artistic discipline, remaking the world in the process. It is, I think, an intellectual and creative explosion of output unseen at any other time in history outside maybe -- maybe -- classical Greece and the Italian Renaissance. And I don't think it an exaggeration to say America owes its dominance during that period to the people of that cohort. Yes, Jews have a long history of achievement, but the Jews of that time and place stand out even compared to the history of their own people. If we could recreate that on a larger scale, or hell, just recreate it on the same scale, with our current population base, God only knows what the world would look like in 100 years.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I've been taking a semi-break from politics, and I must say life is much less dismal when you aren't made aware of how wretched everything is all the time. Not better, mind you, just less dismal.

The Seeing Eye

The small dogs look at the big dogs;
They observe unwieldy dimensions
And curious imperfections of odor.
Here is the formal male group:
The young men look upon their seniors,
They consider the elderly mind
And observe its inexplicable correlations.

Said Tsin-Tsu:
It is only in small dogs and the young
That we find minute observation

-- Ezra Pound

Monday, March 23, 2009

Irrational Exuberance

A 500 point runup because Obama adopted a plan that wasn't considered good enough even during the Bush Administration.

I begin to realize Obama was dead serious about all that "hope" stuff he kept talking about during the election. He must really believe that if you just hope enough, everything will turn out OK. Needless to say, I hope he's right.


Before I forget... Bought the complete Outer Limits on DVD. Been on an old TV show kick lately, and really have been enjoying some of those shows -- TV doesn't have to be mindless garbage, any more than people need to eat french fries at a fast food joint. Anyway, as I watch this series, I'm impressed by how they were able to keep repackaging the same theme over and again without boring me to tears; and really how amazing an actor Martin Landau is. He made his mark playing oddball, even crazy, characters, but he could do it all, and had a particular gift for bringing out the humanity in the most inhuman-seeming characters. It's a reminder of how much luck plays a role in everything. He's had a fine career, capped by an Academy Award, but someone as good as he is --and he's has been turning in terrific performances for 50-odd years now -- should have had an even better one.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I bet the SWAT guys went barrelling in there to be tough guys and blow away the cop killer, which is why two more of them died. No way should they have tried to force that situation against somebody like that -- you back out and use tear gas and the like until he surrenders. But that macho mentality won out, and two cops lost as a result. My brother commands the SWAT unit of a nearby city to Oakland (where we grew up), and I'm wondering what he has to say about this. It'll be interesting to hear him -- he's become something of an autonomic wingnut on lots of things in his time on the force, but he's still a smart, professional guy, and he remembers Oakland, and race relations, pretty well. There are lots of segments of Oakland where people see nothing wrong with killing cops, and the SWAT guys' apparent lack of professionalism here will only reinforce that mentality, despite the unfortunate deaths of those four men at the hands of a scumbag.

* My brother tells me he isn't sure if the SWAT guys knew he was in there -- they might have been breaking in to search the place on a tip, not knowing for sure if the guy was there at all. In that case, they were doing about the best they could. Jumping to conclusions on my part. He knows some of the Oakland SWAT guys, and is going to find out for sure, but if they did know the guy was in there, his basic take is similar to mine, although he won't say that in so many words.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Myth That Will Not Die

Wingnut actor Gary Sinise:

I remember all too well what it was like for our returning military members during the Vietnam conflict. They were caught in the middle of a very divided nation and not only did they have to endure the scars of battle, but upon their return they also were spit on and shamed and ridiculed for their service.

That this is a well-documented, largely debunked myth, doesn't interfere with the "memory" of Mr. Sinise. And about that memory ... Sinise was born in 1955. He'd have been a high school student when the bulk of the Vietnam service members were returning. Exactly how did these "memories" form?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flop Sweat

Obama looked bad on the teevee today. He looked 10 years older, unpoised, somewhat harried. I've never seen him look bad on the teevee before. He looked like someone who realizes he's in over his head. As I read around the internets this evening, it looks like Obama is fighting some chickens coming home to roost. Chris Dodd, the AIG bonuses, pressure from the left over civil liberties (isn't it supposed to be the left that wants to impose some kind of communist dictatorship on the country? Then why are they out in front on this issue, while the freedom loving right wants a more powerful, more intrusive state? Another question without an answer in your upside down world). The media people, fat and secure after watching their stock market investments appreciate 10% in a matter of days, are feeling their oats and going on the attack. Obama has yet to demonstrate he can sail into the wind, remember. His political career has been one long fairy tale.

I once worked with a guy who was young and black. A key manager took the guy, and despite his poor performance, pushed him into a management role -- at 21, with no college at all, he became the youngest manager in the history of this Fortune 500 company. A role he was clearly unqualified for, and one in which he failed miserably, taking many of his direct reports down with him as he failed. This guy was modestly talented -- with several more years of seasoning, he would have made a competent manager. He now sells insurance. As I first watched Obama on the monitors today, then read around the internets today, I thought about that guy. And then I thought about some of the people whose careers he ruined, people it was his job to mentor and help grow their careers. I wonder if, once he started selling insurance, he tried to sell some to them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Warning Sign

This stuff seems funny:

Now, at a time when the national GOP is trying to find its voice and cultivate new candidates, California GOP activists have begun engaging in a new pastime: issuing "fatwas" to punish state Republican legislators deemed too moderate on tax issues.

This circular firing squad was on display last week at a "Tax Revolt" rally that drew 8,000 people to a Fullerton parking lot. It was organized by popular conservative talk show hosts John and Ken - John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of radio station KFI in Los Angeles.

The raucous California tea party featured such dramatics as the spearing of a likeness of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's head, and the sledge-hammering of a pile of Schwarzenegger dolls, videos and movie memorabilia - even an action hero lunch box.

The radio hosts' "fatwas" target a handful of moderate GOP legislators who sided with Democrats to end the state budget impasse. Their calls to recall those lawmakers have reverberated throughout the Republican grassroots.

"It's becoming the fatwa party ... the Jon and Ken party," said Hoover Institution media fellow and GOP consultant Bill Whalen.

And the Democrats are having a good time with it:

Democrats, at least, are cheering them on.

"It's the definition of insanity - they keep doing the same thing, over and over," said Ben Tulchin, a veteran Democratic pollster based in San Francisco who says that the Republican antics have kept the party's eyes off the real prize - winning elections in California.

"Instead of trying to expand their support, they keep appealing to the far right, which gives them a dwindling percentage of the vote," he said.

But I can't help but remember 2004, when the Democrats were "a national party no more," when they were the punch line of every joke, when they couldn't block anything the Republicans wanted to do (well, some things never change).

The fact is, the Democrats got where they are not because of their own brilliance, and not even because of Republican extremism, but because the Republicans utterly failed at the business of running the country. Had the Republicans not been so numbingly inept, they'd still be in power, just as extremist as ever, only no one would be talking about their "disarray." This is particularly something to keep in mind considering Obama has been anything but impressive coming out of the blocks, particularly with regards to the economy -- the one issue, more than any other, that put the Democrats where they are. The breaks don't have to all go the Republicans' way in the future for a reversal of sorts to happen, and then these same crazy Keystone Cops everyone laughs at for their extremism will be running the show again. The Democrats being what they are, the Republicans don't even need a nominal majority to run things; they just need to get close enough to numerical parity to stop looking like losers to the media people. The Blue Dogs will then flip, and it will be something like 1994 - 2000 all over again, with a Democratic president presiding over the implementation of Republican policies -- except Obama lacks both Clinton's skill and his balls, and these Republicans are, simply, batshit crazy, as opposed to the '90s Republicans who were merely ... "eccentric" ... by comparison.