Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Potpourri

Its potpourri day

Housing market

I know that from time to time other people have written stories like this, but they were stories. This is true.

First thing is, I must apologize to, I guess, the world. For years I have been telling people that if you want to see the housing market collapse, just wait until I sell. A year or so ago, when I first announced I was going to move in the near future, the market stalled. With my a week away from being on the market, it was announced – that it had pretty much collapsed. Worst market in 15 years. Oh, I’m good. Sort of like a prosperity hex.

It is no surprise to me. I like to say that if you could break air I would have suffocated as a child. My ability to control (read – destroy) the markets has been too well established to quarrel with. But, don’t worry, we are always told that the market will eventually come back up, but it was a bubble and had to burst. I know it was a bubble, but I wanted to TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE BUBBLE.

So, do you want to know when the values will go back up? Definitely not until I sell my home at an excessively low price, hopefully soon. Just wait until I am ready to buy another home, which I will announce here, and watch the market take off like Secretariat on a fast track. Then you will see a bubble like you’ve never seen before – until I am ready to sell again.

Blog theft

I steal the following from The Dilbert Blog, because its fun. About two months ago the author, Scott Adams, decided that anyone can be funny if they tried to come up with famous last words.

He gave a few examples of his own, which were fairly funny. Here were my two favorites:

“You have a secret room under your house? Cool. I’d love to see it.” and “Green Zone shmeen zone. I’m going put on my kilt and walk to the market.”

However, when he invited many of his readers to try, they proved him wrong -- there is a huge difference between funny people who can write one of the all time great comics like Dilbert and the rest of us. Most of the suggestions were just terrible. Here are some of my attempts:

“You have to let the gas build up a bit before you strike the match” (these were actually almost my real last words at age 19).
“Don't worry. They are more scared of us than we are of them.”
“Don't worry. The government wouldn't let us do this if it wasn't safe.”
“Don't worry. They love Americans.”
“Don't worry. These things fly themselves.”
“Those "don't eat after" dates are just to get you to buy more of their stuff.”
“Great space man costume, dude.”

You can rag on these if you like, but only if you provide your own, and they are actually funny.

Israel v. Harry Potter

A few weeks ago the last Harry Potter novel came out together with a slew of news stories about it. My favorite was the threat from an Israeli government official against stores selling the book on the Sabbath. As far as I know, nothing came of it, but that’s the kind of thing, if it got out of hand, that would make me turn tail on Israel like Lieberman on the Democratic party.

So, I was relieved today to read of the Israeli police actions to evict settlers from the West Bank. The settlers prove they are no different than those Palestinians who hurl stones at the police. That’s exactly what the settlers did. The police were gentle with them. Frankly, I think they should have used the same tactics they used against Palestinians including rubber bullets and bull dozers.

Israel needs to unilaterally give up all West Bank settlements. If there is a national security issue in one or more spots, let it be known and it can be negotiated, but short of that, they all must go.

Did I stray from Harry Potter. Sorry.

How low can you go?

Speaking of Democrats, I have been waiting for the most cloying, pandering act or statement of the campaign. I thought my own favorite, McCain, had it wrapped up for his early kowtowing to Jerry Falwell, culminating in an onstage hug, in a pathetic and failed attempt to get in the religious rights’ good graces.

But McCain has been out dueled, it seems, by the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, who, desperately trying to get into the race in Iowa, told an audience that Iowa was a likely terror target and needed more federal money.
I guess we could cut him some slack by agreeing that it certainly would jack up food prices if Iowa was hit by a nuclear bomb, but last I looked, Iowa had a population of less than three million spread over more than 50,000 square miles. Even if they hit Des Moines with a nuclear bomb, it would cancel out a few hundred thousand lives, and livestock. Without minimizing how horrid that would be, and financially devastating. I would think terrorists would rather wipe out a few million in one blow, and kill America’s financial center, than blow up our cows.

But that wasn’t the worst thing to hit the Democrats this week. They have not managed to accomplish all that much since taking over congress (a party still needs to be able to muster 60 votes in the senate to do so), but one thing they did do was get legislation passed shining light on the earmark process, so that we could know who it was who was putting these local spending deals into legislation.

Now we know. For right now, the bad guys this legislation was designed to uncover looks suspiciously like the Democratic leadership including the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, the majority whip, Steny Hoyer, and the king of them all (more than twice the next person’s score), John Murtha, who managed to get over $163 million dollars headed his way, according to a recent New York Times article.

If the Democrats wanted to prove to the public that they are every bit as corrupt as the Republicans, whom they campaigned against on a promise of higher ethics, they have done so. The Times’ article With New Rules, Congress Boasts of Pet Projects (August 4, 2007) points out that the Democrats’ spoils were less than half that of the Republicans’ 2007 total (which I haven’t personally corroborated), but this is with the lights turned on. Imagine what they would have done if they were still off. Republicans, however, have argued that Democrats are simply refusing to call earmarks “earmarks” in some cases.

Republican debate

Watching the latest Republican debate the other morning, I had to acknowledge that Rudy Giuliani seems to have strongly pulled away from the field in terms of communication, followed by Mit Romney. Giuliani’s poll numbers are not overwhelming. In fact he is only roughly (using RealClear politics combination of polls) 7 points ahead of Thompson, who hasn’t announced, and only 13 points up on McCain, who is all but written off.

What he is, now that he seems to have conquered Republican fears of a pro-life candidate, is the calmest, best debater in the field. I can’t agree that John McCain looked old, as I keep seeing in articles, but he seemed to be reading his bona fides, where Giuliani was scoring points.

Rudy is a real problem for me. Before he dropped out of the 2000 New York Senate race, I was prepared to not vote for either him or Hillary. Now, of all the people in the field on both sides, he is probably closest to my personal policy preferences, but I can’t get past my image of him as the closet prosecutor who will swat away all in his path. Wish he could convince me otherwise. Otherwise, I may get the same opportunity twice.

The Reporter who . . . I’m sorry. I’m confused.

So, Michael Vicks accused of cruelty to animals, is suspended from football, and lost all his endorsements.

A commentator on a sports television show, Paul Zeise, made the observation that Vicks got in more trouble for animal abuse than he would have if he had been accused of raping a woman. The social commentary was meant to point out that people get more worked up over cruelty to animals than people. Not a bad commentary, and, considering that many people believed Kobe Bryant, and that he was not punished as severely for being accused of rape as Vicks is for being accused of brutality towards dogs, it is a well taken point.

Naturally, in our wacky world, the television station apologized for airing the show and announced that Zeise would not be invited back. Zeise, and his main employer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, apologized.

Who were they worried he was offending? Rapists? No, obviously not. Women? No, that doesn’t make sense – if anything he was supportive of female victims. Hmmm. People who care more about animals than humans? No. Wait – yes. YES!

If Michael Vick is guilty, what he did is hideous and I believe he should be punished with jail time. Just because animals aren’t human doesn’t mean we shouldn’t punish people for extreme cruelty to them.

Zeise may have been wise to apologize for business reasons. Opinions get you fired in his business regardless of how well founded they are. If a significant group of people demands an apology, or you even think they might, quick thinking people apologize deeply in order to get past it. Imus did not get past it because of his history of saying similar things.

We now have a society where politicians and media figures have to apologize for silly things. In fact, the apology must be unconditional and appear heart felt or the media and our society will make you do it again and again. Apologizing is smart business, but not admirable when it is meant merely to deflect criticism. I like the few people who stand their ground and refuse to apologize.

It is easy for me or someone like me to say when our living is not at stake, but it has just gotten ridiculous. I still remember George Bush I having to apologize to Detroit autoworkers because he made a kind remark to Russian autoworkers on a trip. John Kerry was forced to give a half hearted apology for his badly told joke about who gets sent to Iraq before the 2006 election.

So which candidate will be forced to apologize first for something that is either not his or her fault, or is completely misconstrued? Maybe they are actually getting tougher. Romney recently refused to apologize for standing next to a supporter who held a sign linking Obama and Clinton with Osama. And Obama refused to apologize for bitter words from former Clinton friend, David Geffen. If politicians will at least stop apologizing for things they had no control over, many of us will be very happy.

But earlier this year (seems like last year this campaign is so long), John Edwards held off apologizing for some language by two of his campaign bloggers on their own blogs. He refused to fire them although it was made known that they would have to hold their tongues to some degree and one, at least, resigned.

Eventually, someone will get caught saying something stupid. Or their staff person will make a mistake or turn out to be a pederast or a KKK member. It has to happen.

Barak’s blunder?

Was it a blunder for Barak to say that if he had actionable intelligence telling him where Osama was in Pakistan, and Musharraf could not act, he would? Although his sudden hawkishness seems a little forced, he has been put in the position of having to prove to some people that he is all-American, and not a closet Islamic extremist (or even a Muslim for that matter) so he deserves some leeway.

Then again, a review of his original statement and his defensive remarks during the recent Democratic debate, shows he either forgot what he said (showing it was probably not a strongly held belief) or was backing off.

It so happens, if what he meant, at least, was that America should go after Obama wherever he is, if the host country, whether an ally or not, can’t get him or won’t do it. I am not surprised that the other Democratic candidates say it was a blunder, because they are trying to knock him off stride in his campaign, but I am surprised that right wing talk radio is bashing him for it as well.

We have gone into Mexico a few years ago and yanked out an accused killer. Mexico didn’t like it. Personally, I thought it was too much. But that was a garden variety murderer. We are talking about Osama. He’s worse than Goldfinger, for crying out loud, and the British Secret Service sent Bond to the good old U.S. to do whatever it took to get that baddie and no one complains (so, pretend its not a movie). Of course we should do this if Musharraf can’t or won’t. And Musharraf should cover our back. We are really the only powerful friend he has.


Book Report

I haven’t read a lot of fiction in the past few years, although I just read Martin Cruz Smith's Stalin's Ghost, and quite enjoyed it. I am pretty much stuck on my few Octogenarian British authors, and a few other old timers. These are my guys (no girls unless you count Harry Potter’s author, J.K. Rowling, but she is not my favorite:

Charles MacDonald Fraser – author of the amazing Flashman series and a number of other excellent books. I am still looking forward to his reputedly outstanding WWII biography.

John Mortimer – Author of the always fun Rumpole of the Bailey series. I am not sure which of these two British subjects is older, but it has to be close.

David Lindsay – In my mind, possibly the best serious mystery writer in America. His Mercy was one of the most powerful and sexual (which usually are a turn off for me) books I can remember. Almost everything he writes is gold, although I get the feeling lately that he dumbed down his style a little to sell more books. Probably what I would do, but I would hope for more from him.

John Forsythe – The author of The Odessa File, The Dogs of War and Day of the Jackal has never written other than a gripping book. Another Britisher and long in the tooth too.

Lawrence Block – this guy has written dozens of great books, and has had three successful series – Matt Scudder novels, The Man Who Couldn’t Sleep (Evan Michael Tanner) series and The Burglar (Bernie Rhodenbarr) series. Other than his A Small Town, virtually a porno novel, I have loved everything he has written, and that’s over something like thirty years.

Martin Cruz Smith – His mystery series based on the grizzly and determined Russian investigator with a heart, Renko Arkady, never misses.

Arturo Perez-Reverte – A Spanish journalist who has written some of the best novels of the decade, mostly European, and often involving swashbuckling topics. I highly recommend The Seville Communion, The Fencing Master, The Flanders Panel and The Club Dumas if you want to give him a try. Sort of like superior Dan Brown novel. His latest series of novels concerns a Spanish swordsman, Captain Alatriste, which unfortunately falls flat for me. Likely they will be his most successful work.

Steven Pressfield – Author of a number of fascinating books on ancient topics. Gates of Fire, on the battle of Thermopylae was riveting as was Last of the Amazons. Also fascinating was his popular success, The Legend of Bagger Vance, which, unbeknownst to almost everyone, ostensibly about golf, is actually a cool take off on an ancient Hindu holy work, The Bhagavad Gita.

Robert Parker – Like the Harry Potter books, it is hard to find one of his Spencer novels where there is a paragraph greater than one sentence these days. But he and Hawk have still got it, as they never stop reminding us in their reparte. Parker has a few other series going, but I can’t get into them.

Robert Crais – Possibly the youngest of my favorite writers. A spectacular writer out on the West Coast, I love his stories and his characters. There is nothing that is not derivative here, but he does a good job.

I’m done. Read a book tonight.

3 comments:

  1. Glad to know you've been reading Cruz Smith. His Renko books are amongst my favorites. Try "Wolves Eat Dogs", if you haven't already read it. I think it's the best one. I don't think Perez-Reverte's Alatriste series is new. Just new in English translation. He reminds me a bit of Solomon Kane, and I'm liking it, it seems, better than you are. Nice to see you coming around on Giuliani. He is the most poised, calm, mature candidate running. Not that he's perfect, but he is certainly NOT who he used to be. Barak is a neophyte at the national level and it's showing now. The most amazing thing about the Democrats is, they had the white house in the bag, and they've managed to produce an entire roster of candidates who can't win a national election. Amazing.

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  2. I've read all of Smith's books.

    You may be right about the Alatriste series. I don't know when he wrote them, but they are coming out serially now. I just think his other work was superb, and this is formulaic. It just didn't grab me.

    Still not a Giuliani fan. I agree with him on policy much of the time, and he is getting better and better in debate (despite that strange lisp he just ignores, to his credit) but he still hasn't convinced me he's not a closet tyrant and I will not happily vote for him. I'm disappointed enough in Bush.

    As for the Democrats, there is no election so secure that they can't screw it up. Bill Clinton was the exception for them if you look back over the last 7 elections. However, Hillary might be able to pull it off if she can keep her voice down and turn the right's hatred of her into votes. But I don't want to vote for her either.

    Too bad Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader killed off the possibility of a serious third party contender for a while. I almost certainly would vote for Bloomberg over Giuliani or Clinton.

    I didn't mention it in my post, but it is a shame that Kucinich is too far left to take seriously, apparently even by his own base, because he is a lot of fun in a debate or speech. We'd have the best looking first lady of all time too.

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  3. I agree that the best candidates in the bunch (Richardson and Dodd in my view)have virtually no chance because they actually have opinions and stands, so they automatically alienate too many voters. I still say the election system would be straightened out by a none of the above choice. Think a blog is coming on...

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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .