Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Holiday Season

My nephew sent me an email about Hillary Clinton going to a gas station with a blue-collar worker to buy some gasoline. The trip was, of course, staged since Clinton has not driven a car or bought gasoline for many years due to Secret Service restrictions, and my nephew accompanied the story with amusing and appropriately caustic remarks. Clinton, it seems, was just appalled that it would cost about $63 for half a tank of gasoline.

She has proposed a “gas tax holiday” which, here in San Diego, would reduce that to about $60.25 in most parts of town, or $60.60 in others. Now doesn’t that just make your day?

As a result of that “gas tax holiday” the potholes that we have in out streets, which are maintained by the city, would now be just as bad on the highways, the maintenance of which is funded by – the gas tax. Quite a few people would be added to the unemployment rolls because the construction jobs for highways would be cut because they had been funded by – the gas tax. With any luck not too many bridges will collapse because maintenance funding… Well, you get the point.

Meanwhile, one’s mortgage payment would still be, oh, $6,985 or so per month, unrelieved by any sort of “mortgage interest holiday.” Milk would still cost $3+ per gallon, unrelieved by any sort of “inflation holiday.” Layoffs would continue, unreduced by any “jobs exporting holiday.” Drought would continue to wreak havoc, undeterred by any “global warming holiday.”

And so on.

And my sanity will diminish due to the lack of a “politics holiday.”

Update: Wednesday, 3:30pm
MSNBC Hardball this afternoon did a segment on Clinton's gas tank-filling expedition, referring to it as "Theater of the Absurd."

Fine, Fine Lines

This one, by Glenn Greenwald, is so good I will quote it in its entirety,
I think the most important thing to note about the Jeremiah Wright Story is that we're a Nation plagued by exceedingly few significant problems; blessed with a quite healthy political culture and very trusted political and media institutions; composed of a citizenry that is peacefully content with its Government and secure and confident about their future; endowed with a supremely sturdy economic foundation free of debt and other grave economic afflictions; vested with the ability to command great respect and admiration from the other nations of the world; emancipated from the burdens of war and intractable conflicts which have toppled and destroyed so many other great nations of the past; and, most of all, we're becoming freer and more prosperous by the minute.

Not only that, but we have an extremely impressive, serious and honor-bound ruling imperial class devoted to the preservation of all of these blessings.

So it isn't as though we really have anything else to talk about besides Jeremiah Wright. There are some countries in the world -- probably most -- which have so many big problems that they could ill-afford to devote much time and energy to a matter of this sort. Thankfully, the United States isn't one of them. I believe it's critical that we keep that in mind as we discuss him for the next seven months.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Many parts of the country/world have four seasons, composers even write classical music about them. Here in Southern California, we have two seasons: rainy season and fire season. Guess which one is getting longer. Fire season starts in July June May April.

LA has a bad fire in progress now, one that is not expected to be put out for several more days. In metropolitan San Diego we've had two rather frightening outbreaks this past week, both of which were extinguished before they got going.

We only got about two-thirds of our normal rainfall this year, after two record-breaking dry years, and vegetation moisture levels are already where they were in August of last year. And the county still has no regional fire agency, so... On the bright side, over 700,000 acres of land has already been burned within the past four years. On the down side, somewhat more than that has not and there are a lot of homes in that part. Including ours.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Labor Relations

Yesterday I went grocery shopping at Ralph’s, the local chain owned by Kroger, which is something I am not prone to do any more. The experience reminded me precisely why I no longer shop there.

As the checker was ringing up my order she was talking past me, rather loudly, to conduct a social conversation with the checker in the next lane and was ignoring me completely. The only time she acknowledged me was to present the credit card slip for my signature and I commented to her, in a tone that was as neutral as I could make it, that socializing with a coworker while waiting on a customer was actually quite rude. She did not respond until I was turning away, at which point she voiced in a sarcastic tone to her coworker, “Oh well.”

Had she simply not responded, I would have left it alone, since her conduct is very much the norm for employees at Ralph’s and I had, after all, exposed myself to it by shopping at a store I usually shun for that very reason. But her sarcastic rejoinder to her coworker prompted me to speak to the manager about the exchange, and he was less than pleased with her; agreed with me that such treatment was not a good way to get customers to return to the store.

Interestingly, the subject of the conversation had been another coworker who had been fired for not showing up for work and not calling in. My checker had been voicing the opinion that the worker should get with her union rep and challenge the action, because her getting fired was unfair.

I am pro-union but on the face of this event, on the face, it would appear that the union representing the workers at Ralph’s is not fulfilling a positive role here. These are very good jobs, they pay well and they have an excellent benefits package, so the union has done well for the workers.

But to foster an attitude that one need not show up for work and need not call in? To foster an attitude that the worker can treat the employer’s customers with indifference and discourtesy, and in so doing drive business away? This is not the proper function of a labor union, but I don’t think blame rests with the union alone here, or even primarily.

Vons and Albertson’s are represented by the same union, and their contracts are negotiated simultaneously. I find the people, workers and management, at both of those stores to be very pleasant and friendly. Vons and Albertsons seem to be maintaining a healthy relationship between labor and management; a relationship which benefits everyone, customers included.

It would seem that labor and management at Ralph’s have developed a very poor relationship. It may work for them. It doesn’t work for me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Feline Snit

Molly in a snitMolly is just home from getting her teeth cleaned. For those of you who don't know, that involves a day-long stay at the vet, anesthesia, having blood drawn, and an x-ray. Molly is not pleased, and at this point is in what might well be called a towering snit. I am a traitorous piece of slime, and she will barely tolerate me being in the same room with her. I get a brief dirty look and then her back is turned.

The vet said that everything went well and commented that Molly is "quite a firecracker." My questioning elicited that "Molly took a dim view of things and did not hesitate to tell us about it." It seems that "she vocalized quite a lot." Yeah, she does that when she is displeased. The lady also noted that, "She is small but she's really, really strong." Yeah, we've noticed that on occasion, too. Turns out that at one point, before they got her under, she kicked most of the equipment off of the operating table.

Our little girl went in there, apparently, and kicked some ass.

Easy Answers

David Ignatius wrote an op-ed Wednesday in the Washington Post (behind a registration firewall), which was reprinted in the San Diego Union-Tribune Thursday (but not included in their online edition), which had to do with politicians offering “easy answers” to today’s problems; easy answers to hard problems, he says; answers that are mostly entirely bogus. Amen.

He blames politicians, and wants to know when they’ll quit doing it. I’ll suggest in just a bit that we can know exactly when our politicians will begin offering real solutions.

His prime example is the Iraq quagmire, and he says that McCain will not keep troops there forever and Clinton or Obama will not withdraw as promptly as both of them promise. He is, of course, I believe certainly quite right and some complex and gradual process is going to have to be worked out. I buy his premise that all three candidates are setting themselves up to seriously disappoint those who voted for them whichever is elected.

The second pie-in-the-sky that he describes is the return of jobs by McCain’s promise of tax cuts and the Clinton/Obama demonization of free trade. I agree with him that neither presents real solution to the issue, but I disagree with his solution of the problem being “government to help workers get the training and job skills they will need.” He’s been drinking some koolaid with that one.

Part of the complex solution that is really needed is to put a halt to all the mergers and acquisitions, and the debt that is created by them which is not only not part of the real economy but is enormously destructive to it.

When a business borrows money to invest in new plants and/or equipment it creates productive debt. The payment of that debt and the interest on it is offset by increased sales which is the product of enhanced productivity and/or increased production.

The debt incurred by mergers and acquisition does not increase anything, and payment of that debt and interest has no offset. It must be accomplished by reducing costs and that always, always means job losses and reductions in worker income.

So who benefits from the debt incurred by mergers and acquisitions? The brokers who managed the deal receive fees for doing it, fees which contribute nothing to the real economy. The financiers who lend the money receive the interest on the debt, interest which also contributes nothing to the real economy. The debts are then packaged and sold, and resold repeatedly, as “financial instruments” and “derivatives” which generate yet more fees which, yes, contribute nothing to the real economy.

A college degree is not needed to tighten a bolt on an assembly line. What is needed is for the assembly line to actually exist for the worker to tighten the bolt on.

A third “easy answer,” which he does not address, is the healthcare problem. McCain proposes to deal with it basically by ignoring it, calling his policy “enhanced consumer choice.” Obama and Clinton both propose to increase enrollment in health insurance. That plan smacks of, “When you find yourself in a very deep hole, the solution is a bigger shovel.”

Health insurance is the problem, and doing more of it is no solution.

Someone will suffer needlessly today because they have health insurance, for which they or their employer has been paying premiums regularly, and their insurer will refuse to pay for the treatment that they need. The reason for the refusal will be the profit motive.

I don’t I know in detail what the solution is. I’m just one guy, and it will take someone with a much higher forehead than mine to come up with that. But I do know for sure that our present system, for-profit health insurance, is seriously flawed and that simply making it bigger is not a solution. This is the “easy answer” that both Obama and Clinton offer, and it is bogus.

I’m in tune with Ignatius that this sound-bite campaign is bad for governance in our nation. It weakens democracy and it worsens with longer campaigns. The media feeds and is part of the problem. I’m angry with all of the politicians who are doing it and I want them to be more honest with us.

They offer easy answers, though, in part because that’s what we demand of them. They do it because we vote for them when they do.

We voters have to do our part. Democracy is hard work. For it to function we have to work at it. So long as we keep voting for those who offer the sound-bite easy answers, we are going to keep getting dumb politicians. When we become smarter voters we will get smarter leaders. Politicians will begin offering real solutions when we demand that they do so.

Democracy is our job.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What Form of COIN?

One small question comes to mind with Petraeus taking over command of CENTCOM. A significant portion of his version of counterinsurgency process consists of building walls around areas to contain violence. He has turned Baghdad into a series of walled enclaves, and part of the latest offensive against the Mahdi army consisted of building yet another wall in Sadr City.

Is that going to work in Afghanistan?

Bend It Like Beckham

BBC World News had a segment last night about being a Muslim in London. They showed several people going about their lives, and one man was shown saying, “We’re just like anyone else, really.”

It reminded me of a movie my wife dragged me to some years ago, figuratively kicking and screaming. As I recall, I extracted a promise of a Bruce Willis movie the following week as a condition. It was about a girl who plays soccer and falls in love; you know, chick flick, blah, blah, bla.

I’ve seen it twice since. By choice.

Anyway. This family isn’t Muslim, they’re Sikh, but they have completely different customs. The father wears a turban. There’s a wedding in the picture, and daily life. The father is a bit henpecked, but pretty good natured about it. I wound up thinking that he was a man whose friendship I would value.

These folks were unlike the society they lived in, and they felt that, but they had no axe to grind. They just wanted to live their lives. Mom wanted her daughters to be happy. Dad just wanted to make a living, and have a beer once in a while in peace, and maybe play some cricket. (I’ve never figured out why anyone wants to play cricket, but the British seem quite fond of it.) The older girl just wants to get married and the younger one, of course, to play soccer. Underneath the skin, we’re all alike.

We need to remember that. Or learn it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Democracy in Action

Elections are held in Zimbabwe and violence erupts as those in power conceal the results and call out the army to remain in power amid claims that they actually lost the election.

Elections are held in Kenya and the UN has to broker a power sharing agreement between the winning party and losing party, because the party in power won't release its hold on the government.

Elections are held in Palestine and neighboring states (and the US) will not recognize the winning party and renounce the state as rogue because they do not like the legitimate winners of the election.

Elections are pending in Iraq, so the party in power is stamping out the party that threatens to replace them, using military force and being assisted in that effort by the US and Britain.

Democracy is not doing very well world-wide. It's still the best form of government there is when it works, but it's not working very well in many places.

Here, we trash the elections before they happen.

Restoring Trust

Richard Cohen writes in an op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday,
…but let me suggest that Bush's "worst legacy" is what he has done to whatever trust Americans still had in their government. This administration's incessant lying, its secrecy -- its creepy Cheneyism with its petty justifications for torture and violation of privacy -- is its worst legacy, one that will endure long after Wal-Mart opens a branch in Sadr City. Only an idiot would trust this government.

And so it will be the job, the obligation, the solemn task of the next president to restore that trust.

He goes on to suggest that McCain or Obama can do that but that Clinton cannot, and I disagree with him. I have been listening to this campaign for, what, fifteen months now. Fifteen long, painful months.

Not one of these three can do it.

I am sick to death of this process and have all but reached the point that I don’t give a flying damn who the Democrats nominate, I don’t want to vote for any of them.

I don’t know how much of what McCain says is true, I don’t know how much of what Clinton says is true, I don’t know how much of what Obama says is true, I just know that for all the crap that all of them have been flinging enough of it has stuck that all of them stink like the sewers of Gomorrah.

They lie and they pander and they make promises that they cannot keep. They say they will cut taxes or alter taxes, but tax rates are the province of Congress; a President can suggest but not enact tax laws. That does not prevent them from making a promise that they know to be a lie.

They make one promise to one audience and a contrary promise to the next because the only thing that any of them ever say is whatever they think will make the current audience vote for them, or give them money, or both.

Whatever this is, democracy it is not.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Food Blog (non-recipe)

ambrosiaPrices for this lovely thing have been running $4.00 and up, and just dropped to around $1.00. That means we are now getting local artichokes. The difference is between eating cardboard and ambrosia. We will be having them several times a week for a while.

One recipe I read said to boil (steam) for 45 minutes, but that is absurd. Even quite large ones are nicely done in 25 minutes. Some people like them cold with mayo for dipping, but I'm a fan of eating them still hot with melted butter.

My father had an artichoke plant in his yard in Tucson. Whacking a couple and having them for dinner fresh from harvest was a memorable experience.

Return to MAD

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why this statement from Senator Clinton in the Democratic debate of April 16th is being so completely ignored. Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann discussed it in a segment on Countdown on the 17th, and I saw one blog post about it around that date but cannot find it now.

In response to a question of “Would you extend our deterrent to Israel?” Clinton jawboned as usual, but within her response was the following,
Well, in fact, George, I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.

…we will let the Iranians know that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under this security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.

The emphasis (bold) is added by me.

Last night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, in response to a question about Isreal being attacked by Iran, she added,
"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Clinton said. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

This is not “George Bush lite,” this is George Bush on steroids. She doesn’t just rattle the saber, she pulls it out of the scabbard and waves it around.

Our latest NIE states that Iran has halted its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Bush’s rhetoric claims that we don’t know, and have no way of knowing, whether they have restarted it and must therefor be afraid of Iran having
“the knowledge to produce nuclear weapons.” Even he has enough sense, in light of that NIE, to cease the rhetoric about Iran actively trying to obtain them.

Not so Dick Cheney and, notably, Hillary Clinton. Both are still using rhetoric that Iran is “pursuing nuclear weapons.” Even Dick Cheney is not saying that we should begin making overt threats of nuclear retaliation.

Not only that, her proposed policy is illogical in the extreme. She proposes to “create an umbrella of deterrence” of our nuclear weapons over Israel, despite the open secret that Israel has some 200 nuclear weapons of its own and the means to deliver them. If Israel’s nuclear weapons are not a deterrent, exactly why would ours be? Or does 200 weapons constitute insufficient retaliation to suit her thirst for vengeance?

Let alone the utter insanity of her plan to extend that “umbrella of deterrence” and commit us to a NATO-like posture of automatic mutual defence with a host of other nations, most of them dictatorships, in one of the most unstable parts of the world.

And, standing with saber in hand, threatening and blustering about the bloodthirsty use of nuclear weapons against anyone attacking an ally, bloodthirsty because that ally has weapons of their own, she says that she is going to begin a major diplomatic initiative.

Theodore Roosevelt said to, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Hillary Clinton only heard the “big stick” part of that, and she didn’t understand that while speaking, which she is not doing softly, you weren’t supposed to be waving the “big stick” in the other person’s face.

Why is no one other than Keith Olbermann talking about this?

The United States has not openly threatened to use nuclear force since the end of the Cold War, when that threatened use was a countermeasure to the enemy’s actively deployed nuclear weaponry. Bush has hinted at it with his “all options are on the table” rhetoric, but not even he has openly stated a desire to return to the days of a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Now here is Hillary Clinton talking openly about threats to “obliterate” another nation, about a nuclear “umbrella of deterrence,” and using the language of Mutually Assured Destruction. And no one seems to notice.

Just Olbermann, “one still small voice, crying in the wilderness.”

If we want to become a nation at peace we could not elect a worse person than someone who, for the past seven years in her pursuit of the nation’s highest office, has been on a constant quest to prove how “tough” she is. We could not do worse than someone whose campaign is now built around the rhetoric that she is “comfortable in the heat of the kitchen.”

We could not do worse than one who talks of “obliterating” another nation.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Diplomacy, Bush/Rice Style

Condoleezza Rice has said some pretty classless things, but this weekend she reached a new low in representing this country, referring to Moqtada al-Sadr and his threat to end the cease fire that has been in place for some seven months now.
"I know he's sitting in Iran. I guess it's all-out war for anybody but him. I guess that's the message; his followers can go to their deaths and he's in Iran."

And just where is the commander-in-chief of our armed forces, whose "followers can go to their deaths"? And where is she, when she isn't sneaking into a war zone unnanounced and accompanied by hordes of armed guards?

If you are going to goad your opponent with charges of cowardice, it is best not to be a chicken hawk yourself, and to be representing another chicken hawk when you do it. She is a coward, and a poltroon.

How can we let classless boors like this represent us?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Speed Trap

speed trapAnybody know what the speed limit is for lava?

The Way of Winning

Many years ago I was at a stock car race and the race was delayed due to rain. While we were all hanging around waiting for the track to be dried and the race to restart the track announcer interviewed, among others, A.J. Foyt who was leading when the rain began. Foyt said that he hoped the race got restarted soon because he didn't want it to be called and for him to be declared the winner due to rain. "I don't want to win it that way," he said, "that would not count to me as a real win." The only way Foyt ever wanted to win a race was by driving faster than anyone else.

Danica Patrick won her first Indy Car race yesterday, becoming the first woman ever to win in that series. She did it, however, by not needing to stop for fuel when everyone else did; not by driving her car faster than the rest of the field. No one seems to think that matters; the only issue is that she crossed the finish line first.

That's rather sad, to me. I think she's a great lady and I admire her. Races are supposed to be about who is the fastest and/or best driver, but to me it seems that what happened yesterday was merely that she was driving a car that was built by better engineers. Had gas mileage not been an issue several cars would have finished ahead of her. What's sad, to me, is not that she won in that fashion, but that it doesn't seem to matter to her or to her team.

A couple of years ago I was watching a stock car race on television and when it was put under caution by rain every car but one made a pit stop. The one who did not inherited the lead and was still there when the race was stopped. The driver had never won a race before and, when interviewed during the delay, said that he hoped the race would be called. "I'd love to get the win." he said, "There's no way I can win if we go back to racing."

Football coaches taping the opponent on the sidelines. "Performance enhancing" chemicals. Winning a race by not pitting during a rain delay.

Getting the trophy. How doesn't matter. Just win.

Repeating the Conversation

Whenever the conversation turns to the war in (occupation of) Iraq it tends to become heated, and it always feels like we are in a disagreement unique to our times. We are not. We have had this discussion many times; during the Cold War, during Korea, certainly (God knows) during Viet Nam, Desert Storm. We even had it before, and to some extent during, World War Two; the war generally accepted as being the last "noble" war in which we fought.

Having this discussion is a very good thing. This, in fact, is what we are all about. America is all about the freedom to have this discussion.

This discussion is democracy in action. It is what democracy is all about. If there was but a single point of view there would be no need for democracy, no need for voting booths. If there was but a single point of view dictatorship as a form of government would be quite comfortable.

I want us out of Iraq, and I feel strongly about that issue, but it is incumbent upon me as a member of a democratic society to respect and honor the position of those who differ with me.

When the people speak and the government does not act then democracy has been subverted. But that is another subject. The national discussion within the citizenry, at the level of the voters and the media, is healthy and necessary so long as we are willing to really have it and do not attempt to stifle one side of it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Voting On Issues

“ How can I vote for a president who won’t wear a flag pin? ” brain deadI just wanted you to see this person. She, apparently, is the source of the question asked by ABC "News" in the "debate" Wednesday night. It doesn't matter what Obama stands for, what his policies are, what he promises for the country in the way of taxes or wars.

He doesn't wear a flag pin. Case closed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Unringing the Bell

In the news in San Diego today is a murder case that turns out not to be murder. In 2002 the husband of Cynthia Sommer, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, died under suspicious circumstances. Tests revealed that his body contained large quantities of arsenic. Cynthia Sommer was behaving suspiciously as well, partying on the life insurance money and obtaining breast implants, and in 2007 she was convicted of murdering him.

Her conviction was overturned due to incompetent counsel and she was awarded a new trial. The first thing the new lawyer did was order that the tissue test be redone and it showed that there was no arsenic. Charges have been dropped and Sommer is being released.

I have always been uncertain about the death penalty. We are, I believe, the only Western nation that still does this, or are one of the very few. Most nations will not extradite anyone to us unless we agree not to seek the death penalty because they consider the practice barbaric.

Some crimes are so heinous, however, that it seems to me that removing the offender from the face of the earth is the only reasonable thing to do. If you sentence that offender to life in prison without parole, what guarantee do you have that some future parole board will not decide to let that person walk free?

I guess the thing that tips the scale for me is that "you cannot unring the bell." Cynthia Sommer can be released from prison and will go free tonight. If she had been executed...


The debate last night was, to me, a national disgrace. For more than an hour an issue affecting the lives and deaths of more than 200,000 of our fighting men and women overseas was left off of the table in favor of matters of such import as the frequency with which one candidate wears a flag pin on his lapel. Not mentioned in that weighty discussion was the fact that the other candidate never wears a flag pin, nor that the Republican candidate frequently does not.

Barack Obama refers to these types of issues as “distractions” from the real issues. He says that instead of “parsing the candidates sentences” we should be talking about things like how to repair the economy to bring real jobs back to this country and to restore economic balance, a topic that was never mentioned in last night’s debate.

I have a lot of company in my belief about the nature of list night’s debacle, but there are a few who disagree. David Brooks in his Campaign Stops column today in the New York Times says, in part,
…I thought the questions were excellent. The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities. Almost every question tonight did that.(…) We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall.

Only because the media makes them important. The media says that they write about what is important, but pretends that it does not know that it is the media that decides what is important. And “making politicians uncomfortable” is a lot of fun, and it makes the journalist feel powerful and important, but it is not the journalist’s job. The journalist’s job is to inform the reader.

And James Joyner at Outside the Beltway agrees with him.
Elections are not decided on “the issues.” …95 percent of the people vote on trust, likability, character, and such.

Which is how they elected George W. Bush; he was “the guy you’d like to have a beer with.” Based on Joyner’s criteria and current media coverage, John McCain will win in a landslide. I don’t think he actually will, because his policies are so utterly disastrous, but…

Joyner, like most of the media, has mastered the self-fulfilling prophecy. People read this crap so you need to write it, is actually a case of people read this crap because they want to cast their vote and this crap is the only thing you are writing. When the media is not providing coverage of the issues people cannot really vote on the issues.

Whether or not a man wears a flag on his lapel is not a character issue. It is a distraction. The idea that someone would cast a vote based on whether or not the candidate wears a piece of jewelry is nothing short of monstrous.

The American people have been voting against their own interests for years because the media – the politicians, yes, but to a larger degree the media – has distracted them from those interests with trivial matters such as jewelry, masking those trivia and giving them weight by calling them "character issues.”

The newsrooms of this country have been taken over by hacks who use them as ego platforms, while the editorial desks have been hijacked by corporate shills who are tools of the corporatist governing elite.

And being an informed citizen is more difficult than ever.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Food Blogging Again

This recipe is not in any way authentic; ethnic Russians will probably tear their hair out reading it, let alone eating the results of it. I started with a recipe that I read somewhere long ago, but it evolved to this as I kept making it over the years. Authentic or not, it tastes good.

And for my Midwestern friend, no ginger.

Beef Stroganoff
2 pounds lean round steak
2 cubes Herb-Ox chicken bouillon
8 oz sliced white mushrooms
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp prepared horseradish
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4-5 tbsp sour cream
olive oil as needed for saute purposes

Dissolve the bouillon* in about 2-1/2 cups of water and put it in your trusty pressure cooker. Start that over a low heat while you prepare the meat.

Cut the meat into thin strips and dredge it in flour with salt and pepper. Brown it over a reasonably high heat in a skillet, doing so in batches unless you have a really large skillet, and add the meat to the cooker. No need to cook it all the way through, just brown it lightly. Deglaze the skillet with just a little bit of red or white wine (I use white) and add that to the cooker.

Let the pressure cooker weight spin or rock for about fifteen minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you could replace this step with a couple hours at a low simmer, but pressure cooking will tenderize the beef a lot better. You can run tap water over the cooker, then, in order to de-pressure and open it.

Add the mustard, horseradish and garlic. Sauté the onions until they are just starting to turn transparent and add them to the pot. Let this simmer over low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Slice the mushrooms and sauté them in the skillet over high heat until they are lightly browned and the liquid is gone. Add them to the pot along with the sour cream. Stir that all up nicely and serve over noodles.

*Yes, chicken bouillon for this dish, and Herb-Ox is the only brand I use.

Clinton's New Strategy

Can anyone tell me what this column is about? I picked it up from Google News reader and thought it was something from the Onion, but it appears to be an actual column in the Washington Post. The column starts like this,
Hillary Clinton took an important step Monday toward winning the Democratic nomination by launching an ad targeting Barack Obama's recent comments about working-class voters clinging to "guns or religion." The ad is a marked change from her recent determination to use a positive message until the Democratic convention…

Where has Douglas E. Schoen been while the rest of the media is talking about Clinton’s “kitchen sink” strategy? He goes on to say that,
Clinton has provided a compelling case for her candidacy thus far.

Um, to whom has she done this? That gem is immediately followed by,
After all, the superdelegates have the power to end the Democratic contest now and have chosen to wait.

And that illustrates her “compelling case” exactly how?

You should follow the link above and read the column, and then give me a comment to let me know if you think this Schoen person is completely out of touch with reality. Also let me know if you can think of a reason why the Post would print this, even on page A15.

I was getting really disgusted with her, as John Cole at Balloon Juice put it, "running to every microphone with a zeal that would impress Chuck Schumer to claim that America’s blue collar workers are under assault from a San Francisco effete liberal latte-sipping out-of-touch Obama," until I read that she was having all of the impact of a whiffleball hitting one of the Pyramids of Giza.

And, of course, as a recovering alcoholic of 26+ years, I was duly impressed with her ability to down a shot of Crown Royal in a single gulp. That surely swayed my vote, as I’m sure it did for every MADD member who was watching.

But, according to Doug Schoen, she “needs to go negative.” She gets any more negative, and the entire nation will be ankle deep in barf.

Telling Hillary Clinton to "go negative" is pretty much like telling Jon Stewart to "do snark." It's like telling a fish to swim, or a lion to eat zebra.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Context Matters

Jeremiah Wright has been a pastor in an African-American community church for more than 30 years. One person after another, Barack Obama among them, has come forward to testify that Pastor Wright has been of great spiritual help to them. There is no question that this man has provided secular, emotional and spiritual comfort to thousands. He has preached at least 1500 sermons which undoubtedly have totaled more than 90,000 minutes of speaking.

But based on less than one minute of YouTube video the world knows him as a hate-filled, evil man.

What we have seen, however, is not just one minute of video. What we have seen and heard is one minute of video played and talked about endlessly by the media in press, radio and television. In each program where they are “analyzing the effect that Pastor Wright might have on the campaign” they not only play that video, they play it in a loop which repeats it continuously in the background.

We do not have the faintest idea who Pastor Wright is. We only know who the media has painted him to be.

In similar vein, Barack Obama has brought an astonishing number of new voters into the Democratic Party. He has connected with young people in a way that has not happened in this country since Robert Kennedy. He has stirred an enthusiasm for the electoral process that I have not seen in decades. How many of the politicians of my generation have said publicly that “it was my children who persuaded me” to endorse Obama?

Obama has spoken millions of words in thousands of venues for more than a year; words that have stirred and excited voters and brought Obama from dark horse to front runner in a national campaign, but now the media fastens on twenty seconds of poor quality audio to put on their endless loop and evaluate endlessly.

Obama is now what that twenty-second sound bite says he is.

We read from someone who was in the room when those words were spoken, however, that those words did not have the tenor that Obama’s opponents and the media are imparting to them.

David Coleman, writing at The Huffington Post, was at the gathering where Obama spoke. You can read what he writes in full, and I urge you to do so, but the crux of the story is (emphasis added by me),
…a questioner asked, "some of us are going to Pennsylvania to campaign for you. What should we be telling the voters we encounter?"

Obama's response to the questioner was that there are many, many different sections in Pennsylvania comprised of a range of racial, geographic, class, and economic groupings from Appalachia to Philadelphia. So there was not one thing to say to such diverse constituencies in Pennsylvania. But having said that, Obama went on say that his campaign staff in Pennsylvania could provide the questioner (an imminent Pennsylvania volunteer) with all the talking points he needed. But Obama cautioned that such talking points were really not what should be stressed with Pennsylvania voters.

Instead he urged the volunteer to tell Pennsylvania voters he encountered that Obama's campaign is about something more than programs and talking points. It was at this point that Obama began to talk about addressing the bitter feelings that many in some rural communities in Pennsylvania have about being brushed aside in the wake of the global economy.

When Obama speaks the words I’ve emphasized, does that sound like he has contempt for or is looking down on the people of Pennsylvania?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Throwing Stones

Senator Clinton attended a forum where she was asked to describe her faith and moral values at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pa. She certainly didn’t hesitate to describe her opponent’s moral values, apparently never having read the words in the bible about casting the first stone. As far as I am able to tell, Senator Obama confined himself to talking about his own faith and values, and declined to offer the presumption of knowing what lies inside another person’s soul.

To quote from the New York Times article, Senator Clinton,
…decried what she called Mr. Obama’s lack of faith in American values, labeling a description he gave of “bitter” voters in small-town Pennsylvania as “elitist, out of touch and, frankly, patronizing.”

…even placed Mr. Obama in the same upper-crust echelon as Al Gore and John Kerry, noting that even though both former Democratic presidential candidates were men of faith, “large segments of the electorate concluded that they did not really understand or relate to or frankly respect their ways of life.”

Apparently the news media is driving this, because the Times article says that her statements were in response to a question. So if she is accused of divisive politics she can use that wide-eyed innocent teenager look of hers and claim in that patented surprised tone that she was merely answering the question she was asked. She is, of course, required to answer all questions fully and in depth; except ones about blue dresses or anything she doesn’t want to talk about. She’s really good at not answering those.

Democrats had better hope that Senator Obama does not win the nomination, because Senator Clinton is certainly doing her best to assure that he cannot be elected President.

Me? I have become rather indifferent. If Obama is nominated I will vote for him, but I think he will get to Washington where he will be out-numbered by a ratio of 535:1 and accomplish little or nothing. A Democratic Party that will allow Clinton to do what she is doing is a party that will not allow Obama to create change. If Clinton is nominated I will sit the election out.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Who speaks for you?

To the Democratic voters in Pennsylvania,

You live in an area known as the “Rust Belt” in tribute to a steel industry that died a slow and lingering death. You have watched your job and the jobs of your neighbors shipped overseas for higher corporate profits.

The cost of feeding your family has increased by 24% recently. The cost of heating your home and driving your car has increased 84% in that same time. The cost of health insurance premuims, copays and deductibles has gone up by 17% and more. While all those costs have risen, your wages have gone down by 4% in the same period.

For decades the politicians have been saying that they care about you and that they will make things better for you, but they pass tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit only those who make far more income than you do. They cannot pass an increase in the minimum wage until they decide to accompany it with offsetting tax breaks for businesses. They are eager to bail out the failed hedge funds and pass tax breaks for failing home builders but cannot decide to rescue homeowners facing foreclosure.

So which candidate is speaking for you?

Is it Hillary Clinton, who appreciates that she finds you to be “optimistic, upbeat and positive” in your outlook?

Or is it Barack Obama, who says that he understands why you are pissed off and agrees with you that things need to change?

Answer that question with your vote on April 22nd.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Can Deal With This


Pots and Kettles

I think it is utterly hilarious that Hillary Clinton and John McCain are calling Barack Obama "elitist" the past few days. Consider the adult backgrounds of these three people.

John McCain has spent the past 20+ years as a member of the senior governing body of this country, with a bank account in eight figures, living in million-dollar palaces in two states and travelling in private airplanes.

Hillary Clinton graduated from law school and promptly went to work for a major law firm at a large salary, served on the boards of major corporations, lived in the White House for eight years where she never needed to even open a door for herself, and has since had to struggle along with an income of a mere $109 Million in the past seven years.

Barack Obama graduated from law school and went to work on the south side of Chicago doing community organization for people who had lost their jobs when steel mills closed, and he is only about a decade removed from those efforts. Either one of his opponents has likely handled more money in one year than he has made in his entire lifetime.

And they are calling him "elitist" and "out of touch."

Terror Talk

Update: Saturday, 10am The point I actually want to make with this post is not so much the inanity of TSA searches, as that ABC News considers this to be "news," worthy of broadcast.

ABC News did its periodic “terror talk” this week, giving us the Bush Administration’s latest scare message about how the vigilant and intrepid Department of Homeland Stupidity is keeping us Safe And Secure In Our Air Travels by apprehending Scary Devices That Can Destroy Airplanes In Mid-flight and, of course Kill Everybody on board.

Part of this is due, of course, to the trial in England of the plotters with liquid bombs who were going to blow up planes bound for North America. The people with no tickets, or reservations, or even passports. But at least England has a decent enough case to put them on trial, unlike all of the plots that our intrepid DHS and Federal Bureau of Ineptitude have busted.

If you can deal with that much fear and anxiety, you can read the entire ABC News item here, but I’ll provide you with some highlights.

The centerpiece is that they say the terrorists are now “turning some everyday items into lethal devices.” They then show what looks like an ordinary wristwatch. Turning it over, they pull the back off to show that it has been hollowed out and the actual watch replaced with a sophisticated military detonator. That is not quite “turning an everyday item into a lethal device,” but rather is a case of buying a relatively non-lethal but very difficult-to-obtain device and putting inside an ordinary item. By itself the detonator might blow the terrorist’s hand off, but that’s about all it would do.

So how do they imagine this device being used? Get ready for this. They show a cartoon of the watch being strapped around a sports drink bottle filled with pink fluid, following which a cartoon airplane goes up in a horrendous explosion. The “liquid bomb in a sports drink bottle” myth has been so thoroughly debunked that Batman Comics doesn’t even use it any more.

They describe an alternate use for this device. It can be smuggled through airport security and “then you would actually be able to press it up against a bomb-laden vest.” They do not describe how the bomb-laden vest would get through security, nor exactly why the detonator would need to be smuggled through separately.

There was also a toothbrush that was truly terrifying. Children might be reading this, so I will not describe the awfulness of this device.

So we’re good until the DHS needs for ABC News to scare us again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Terminology in Iraq

Last night on Countdown a retired colonel who had served in Iraq took issue with Bush's definition of Iraq as a "front in the War on Terror." He claimed that it was a civil war which we are moderating.

I do not question his assesment, but we need to be a little more honest with ourselves than that. What we are doing in Iraq is not a war at all.
We are performing a military occupation of a conquered nation.

A civil war in the midst of that is complicating things, but we are occupiers.

Suspicious Behavior

Just what action constitutes suspicious behavior?

That question was asked quite reasonably by Lionel van Deerlin in an editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday. He suggests that if I were to pull out a pistol and fire five shots into the windshield of a car containing an unarmed woman and an eight-year-old kid that the police would probably consider that suspicious enough to think that I was under the influence of some sort of intoxicant, and that they would probably subject me to some sort of blood test to find out if such were the case.

Apparently, in San Diego, not.

They did not give a blood test to the shooter, who was an off duty police officer. They did give a blood test to the woman he fired at, but they did not say what her suspicious activity consisted of. Other than getting shot at. And, in fact, shot; he hit her with two bullets. Perhaps, in San Diego, getting shot is "suspicious activity" and warrants a drug test, while shooting an unarmed female who is sitting in her car does not.

You can read Van Deerlin's column here, but my take on this is that the longer the Oceanside and San Diego Police Departments drag this out without revealing the truth, the worse the stench of corruption reeks in my nostrils.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Democratic Myth

After watching as much of the Petreaus/Crocker hearings as I could tolerate yesterday, I am less sold than ever on the prevailing myth that electing Democrats to office, and in particular electing a Democrat as President, is going to solve the problems of government that our nation faces today. It was difficult to detect who was triangulating more feverishly; Petreaus and Crocker, the Republican politicians, or the Democrats. Clearly, no one in that room was interested in anything other than self-aggrandizement. Well, Petreaus and Crocker were probably interested in leaving, but…

Consider that literally hundreds of incidents of graft, corruption, misfeasance, malfeasance and law-breaking have been discovered in the Bush Administration during the fifteen months that this Democratic Congress has been in session. Some of it has been uncovered by Congressional investigations, but not one single action of justice has been initiated by this Congress. Not one single subpoena or indictment has been issued. Not one single person has been fired or impeached. Upon discovering wrong doing, this Congress has complained and wrung its hands and has done nothing.

This is the Democratic Party, which we are hoping will save our government.

Consider that, even before it was elected into the majority, the leadership of this Congress declared that Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution of The United States of America was to be null and void; that their wisdom was greater than that of the founders of this country, and that the President of this nation should not be subject to and limited by threat of impeachment.

This is the Democratic Party, which we are hoping will save our government.

Consider the campaign staff of Hillary Clinton. I offer this not as an indictment of this candidate, although it certainly is just that, but because she is the candidate who has the support of the Democratic Party. While Obama outnumbers her in pledged delegates elected by voters, she has more pledged delegates who are those known as “superdelegates.” The latter are not elected by voters, but are granted that status by virtue of their standing in the Democratic Party apparatus.

Clinton’s campaign chief was Mark Penn, who also worked as a corporate lobbyist with clients including Microsoft, oil companies and, of course, Columbia. Clinton was very well aware of this and did not require him to sever his ties with corporate lobbying in order to manage her campaign; a rather serious conflict of interest. That came to a head last week when he was paid handsomely to lobby in favor of a Colombian trade pact which she was campaigning against. Even then, while she made a show of “firing” him as campaign manager, she did not remove him from her staff, and he continues to participate both in his corporate lobbying enterprise and as part of her campaign staff.

And after that happened, she did not lose the support of one single superdelegate. I don’t really care who Hillary Clinton has on her campaign staff, but the fact that the Democratic Party is supportive of her permitting a paid corporate lobbyist to be part of her staff suggests to me that, as Shakespeare might put it, “there is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” Or, in this case, New York.

Karl Rove not only quit his job as a lobbyist to work for George Bush, he sold his interest in the lobbying firm. Mark Penn, with Clinton’s approval, kept his ownership in the lobbying firm and continued to actively work as a lobbyist while managing her campaign, and continues to do so to this day. The Democratic Party has no visible objection to this practice, and her superdelegates remain pledged to her.

Our government is owned by corporations, and their lobbyists actually participate in writing the laws of this nation. That has been happening for many years, but legislators used to have the decency to at least to try to keep it under the table. The Democratic Party is now becoming so openly controlled by corporations that they are acknowledging that it is permissible to have corporate lobbyists as members of a legislative staff.

This is the Democratic Party, which we are hoping will save our government.

Electing Democrats, per se, solves precisely nothing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Battle Rages

battle ragingFor a while it appeared that the rubber band might actually prevail, but the tide has turned and, while the issue is still in doubt, Molly seems to have the upper hand now.

You thought this was going to be about politics or Iraq, didn't you?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Crystal Ball

ku jayhawkI'll bet I know where my sister will be at 6:00PM PDT Monday. It does not take a genius to make that prediction, as she is a basketball fan and an alumnus of Kansas University. I suspect she enjoyed the evening yesterday as well.

I may even have to watch the game myself. My bride would just as soon watch paint dry, but...

You may have noticed what my blog name is?

Tuesday morning

Wow. I thought Kansas was toast. I think pretty much everybody thought Kansas was toast. Not only down by nine with two minutes left, but they'd been getting their butts kicked the whole second half. But the basketball players in dark blue didn't think they were toast.

One of life's great experiences, by the bye, is to be in the football statium at Lawrence and hear the low murmer of "Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU" start up. It begins as a low chant and is repeated over and over, swelling each time in volume until it is a thunderous roar. Awesome. When it starts you can barely hear it, but you know what is coming and the hair on the back of your neck stands up.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Police State?

Is San Diego becoming a police state? The question sounds absurd on the face of it, but something really stinks and answers are not forthcoming. Here are the facts that we know.

Three weeks ago an off-duty police officer shot and wounded a woman and her son. The woman was not armed and the officer was not in uniform and not on duty. Apparently the officer cut the woman off in traffic and they argued. They pulled into a parking lot where the arguement continued, but neither party exited their cars. The child, an eight-year-old, was clearly visible in the front seat of the car. The officer pulled out his pistol and fired five times, hitting the child once and the woman twice. The woman was tested for drugs and alcohol but has not been charged with any offense. The officer was not tested, has not been charged, and is on paid administrative leave, "pending investigation" of the incident.

Those are all of the facts that we know and the police department of Oceanside is not answering any questions or releasing any information.

After three weeks.

Our District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, is saying in today's paper that we need to be patient while she conducts an investigation. She says that these things take time.


A citizen and her son were shot by a police officer in a road rage incident. We are entitled to answers, not bullshit platitudes. I am out there driving on the streets of San Diego and I am entitled to know that I do not have to be afraid that I will be confronted by some crazed off-duty armed police officer.

In the meantime I am avoiding Oceanside like it was a war zone.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Economics 002

Yes, as one commenter pointed out after Economics 001, the title reflects the intent. College courses start in the 100’s. Enough said?

I don’t know what it is about Philadelphia, but that city seems to produce astute and delightfully snarky columnists. I have several of them bookmarked, among them Dick Polman’s American Debate. He is significantly left of center and dislikes dishonesty in politics almost as much as I do, but yesterday he displayed a rather dismaying soft spot not only for big business, but for the oil industry.

Consider this, “…Barack Obama engaged yesterday in some old-school substance-free politicking. He denounced the price of gasoline.”

While denouncing the price of gasoline may not be the most righteous cause in today’s political arena, I hardly think it rates as “substance-free.” The relationship between the pricing of oil-by-the-barrel and gas-by-the-gallon is murky at best.

However, oil company profits are stated by the media only in absolute number of dollars, so it’s difficult to determine what the numbers really mean. What return is the oil industry obtaining on its investment? What profit is it making on expense? What is that profit as a percentage of sales? These are factors that are a lot more significant than the raw number of dollars. If the media reported that an oil company made 4% profit on $500 billion in sales, no one would get as excited as they would when that company made “a record $2 billion in profit” this year.

Of course, then the oil company kingpins sit in front of a congressional committee and yak about how badly they need to retain their tax breaks…

Dick Pohlman goes on to debunk the accusation that oil companies are price gouging the public with the high pricing of gasoline,
“…rather, this analyst said, they were charging the highest price that the global market would accept - which is another definition of capitalism, at least in its more rapacious form.”

At least he admits it’s a “rapacious form” of capitalism, but actually it’s the very definition of price gouging. When pricing is based on the highest price you can get, rather than the cost of production and a reasonable return on investment, you are price gouging.

Let's say hotel rooms regularly go for $100/night. The Super Bowl comes to town and they jack the price to $300/night. It's the same room and in the same place and costing them the same amount to rent, for three times the price. But by the definition above, they are not price gouging. To the person paying that $300/night, who is paying three times as much and getting no greater value, that is most definitely price gouging.

Gas prices have always been higher in San Diego that anywhere else in the nation, and local politicians keep investigating whether or not oil companies are engaging in “price fixing.” They’ve never been able to prove their case and the oil companies keep saying that the high prices are due to demand.

It’s all the fault of us consumers because we’re using too much of it.

The corollary to that is It’s the consumer’s fault because we’re paying the price they charge. If we’d quit paying that price, they’d quit charging it.

That actually might work if the product were, say, marshmallows.

The mind-boggling part is that everybody says, “Oh, okay” and the whole thing goes away. If you talk to the independent service station operators they will tell you that the oil companies not only are price fixing, they are doing so in an open and blatant manner. But the oil companies say they are not, and guess which one of those groups gives campaign contributions.

Apparently they don’t give them to Barack Obama, though.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

That Rocky Analogy

This is too rich not to plagiarize it. It’s from Attywood in today’s post, although I have added a few tidbits of my own.
“I know what it means to get knocked down. But I’ve never stayed down, and I never will. Let me tell you something – when it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up.”

-- Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia yesterday.

Great analogy.

Except that Rocky loses.

And Clinton started out the race as a favorite of Apollo Creed-like proportions and became the underdog of her own making.

And the actor who played Rocky supports John McCain.

And she actually said, “I never get up.” I know she didn’t mean to but…

It’s called “foot-in-mouth disease” in my circles.

San Diego Flavors

Updated: Apr 2, 8:30am (below)

In one of the bluest of states, San Diego County has not given its vote to a Democrat for president since 1992 and indications are that it may not do so this year. You thought all of Southern California was a seething cauldron of liberals, didn't you? Come on, admit it.

We've had 3 car-to-car shootings in the last 12 days, attributed to "road rage" and resulting in three deaths. A friend of mine, who has since moved to the rural East Coast, used to say that road rage should be made legal; that doing so would solve the traffic problem and the population crisis at the same time. We may not need to legalize it.

The three incidents did not include a shooting by an off-duty police officer, also attributed to road rage of some sort although it happened in a parking lot. The woman who, along with her eight-year-old son, got shot was tested for drugs and alcohol while the officer was not. She had a former DUI and was driving without a license, but the officer could not know that because neither of them had gotten out of their cars. The police will not allow the officer to speak and is not speaking for him, and the woman does not remember what happened prior to the shooting.

The wheels are coming off in Iraq, but the lead story on the San Diego Union-Tribune front page is about beer prices at the Padres ballpark. Up again this year, $9.50 for a 20oz glass. They generate $846 in sales on a keg that costs $76, which is pretty good profit. The Iraq news was on the last page of the first section. San Diego has its priorities, you know.

But it's consistent with MSNBC News, as Countdown included stories about Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Tom Cruise and endless discussion about which actor was narrating McCain's latest campaign commercial and who is leading in which poll. The word "Iraq" was never mentioned, even in passing.

San Diego used more water in 2007 than any previous year, so the City is taking bold action. They are launching a bigger-than-ever public relations campaign to urge people to use less water. No mention is made of the City itself actually using less water at its own facilities.

At the same time the City Council is applauding the builders who are proposing developments of more than 200,000 new residential units in an area that is already filled with homes that are unsold and being foreclosed upon, streets that are clogged with traffic, and water and sewer systems that are breaking down due to old age and overuse.

So the people who are already here need to use less water because we are running out of water, but by all means let's bring in hundreds of thousands of new people to use the water we don't have. Good plan.

But we have great beaches and awesome weather.

Update: Apr 2, 8:30am
From a commenter at Media Matters regarding the crowd booing President Bush when he threw out the "first pitch" at the Washington Nationals game,
Probably the only ballpark where Bush would encounter any level of cheering (at least no booing) is San Diego.

Back to reminding myself about our beaches and weather.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Economic Re-Regulation

The Bush Administration has announced a new system for regulating the financial sector and I don’t understand very well how it works. I don’t feel bad about that, though, because no one else seems to understand it either. It has to do with the Federal Reserve standing by, aloof in normal times (whatever those are), and taking action of its own determination in an emergency (whatever that might consist of).

It sort of relates to San Diego County which, weirdly enough, has no Fire Department. I’m pretty sure it’s the only California county that doesn’t have one, and may be the only county in the nation that doesn’t. If that seems strange to you after reading about fires that nearly toasted the city in 2003 and 2007, which were not by any means the only two years we’ve had big fires, well, it doesn’t seem strange to the residents of San Diego County.

(Actually, we keep saying it seems strange, but we keep voting it down.)

As I remarked in a recent post, we have our priorities. Fire Departments cost money. So we have a City Fire Department, and all of the little burgs out in the county have volunteer Fire Departments. Most of them even have fire trucks. There have been a number of proposals to create a county fire agency, but few have passed the talking stage and all of them have failed.

When we have a big fire we yell for help from the counties to the north. Due to a state-wide firefighting pact, they send help but they grumble a lot because when we are on fire they usually are too. They spend money to create a major Fire Department and we don’t and then they have to leave their (burning) county and come fight our fires. It sort of pisses them off.

(But we have great weather and fabulous beaches.)

So I was thinking what a San Diego County Fire Department would look like if it were built along the lines of the federal financial regulatory plan:

* It would be located in Las Vegas
* It would store its equipment in Salt Lake City
* It would get its information from the National Enquirer
* It would not require brush clearing around houses
* It would sell plots for homes in forest areas
* It would permit homes with wood siding and cedar shake roofs
* (It would sell wood siding and cedar shake)
* It would eliminate “red flag” warning system
* In Santa Ana conditions it would not ban campfires

And when trouble broke out it would rush to the scene of the fire and throw gasoline on it.