Monday, March 30, 2009

One (more perfect) Art

I lost a duffel bag in a dream.

What happens to an object lost in a dream?

Elizabeth Bishop’s lost city or keys

Are somewhere, really.

But that love she might one day have lost—

Where is that?

And a duffel in a dream—

Where is that?

How does one find such?

Where to look?

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Sunday, March 29, 2009


Getting closer, Dear Gentle Reader(s), to that stage.
While walking this morning, and having my usual internal review of yesterday's discussions, I noticed a certain amount of arm movement which didn't comport with the usual swing associated with a good walking pace.
What distracted me from my musing was my right hand, fisted, assailing the space directly in front of me.
Hmmm...I'd been remembering a strong point I'd made...perhaps I was adding a little physical emphasis to the words?
Have I become one of those seniors walking the neighborhood muttering and gesticulating?
I dunno. Maybe.
When dogs start barking and children throwing rocks, I'll stay home.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

What? Another first?!? (About time!)

For the first time ever, it’s being touted, Dear Gentle Reader(s), that a sitting president will be making an appearance on a late-night television program.

President Obama visits with Jay Leno tonight and makes history.  Why this is the first time for such an appearance somewhat begs credulity.

One becomes so accustomed to seeing a sitting president on The News Hour, Mr. Obama just last week, and on the Sunday talk shows on occasion, that it beggars the mind to discover no one has visited with either Letterman or Leno, not to mention going back to Mr. Paar or Mr. J.Fred Muggs.

Visiting with the late-night crowd seems such a sure-fire way to gain some public empathy.  Mr. Nixon might have been a bit of a cold fish, but chatting with Mr. Carson might’ve helped gain a little sympathy.  And if Mr. Clinton had gone on Letterman, we might’ve had a better shot at getting health care through the Congress in 1994—Harry and Louise (and the AARP) aside.

Finally, the boob tube is being used to a significant degree as a teaching tool.

This is a first from which we will all gain.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Double the tax

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There’s a danger, Dear Gentle Reader(s), in using mnemonics for math problems, especially the advanced mathematics required for affixing the proper amount of tip to a restaurant bill.

For years here in California, it was easy to tip the customary 15%.  The state sales tax was 7 1/2%, so one only had to double the tax to be home free.

Then the tip rose to a new custom—20%.  Well, that’s OK, too.  One simply has to double the first single digit of a bill under $100, or double the first two digits of a bill under $1000.  (One doesn’t entertain the thought of a bill over $1000, does one?  Not this one.)

Recently a problem arose with the combination of the partial mnemonic double the and gin (Bombay martini—not Sapphire) followed by wine (house red) at dinner.  The thought process went something like this:

Let’s see.  The bill is $98.00.  Double the 9 for $18.  What?  Um, no.  I don’t need a doggie bag.  Where was I?  Tip.  Let’s see.  $18 doubled is $36.  Easy.  Tote it up.  Sign it.  There.  Ready to go.

Something dawned the next morning.  (let’s see…four fingers minus three toes plus one nostril…hmmm…uh-oh!)

Let that be a lesson to me, DGR(s). 

Pass the bill to someone else.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tone Deaf

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Isn’t it a bit perplexing, Dear Gentle Reader(s), to read the story following the headline in today’s The New York Times?  After all, “A.I.G. Planning Huge Bonuses After $170 Billion Bailout” isn’t exactly what one would expect for a lede in these dire financial times.

Yet, there it is in all the spectacular tone deafness of one Edward M. Liddy, appointed by the government to run the company.

For wonderment try this for the wrong word:

Liddy wrote, “We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury.”

What, one ponders, might constitute “the best and the brightest talent.”  What makes the bonuses even more problematic is this paragraph:

The bonuses will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages.

In other words, DGR(s), the “best and brightest” which Liddy wishes to reward and retain are those who got us into this mess in the first place.

Then, too, there was a negotiation which resulted in some of these bonuses being paid, and that negotiation cripples the effort to reduce, much less withdraw, the bonuses.

It’s almost as though the best and brightest are the lawyers who did the negotiations for the alleged best and brightest of A.I.G.’s financial products division. 

Contracted bonuses  which have to be given to people who made the wrong decision. 

God bless America.  (And God give Mr. Liddy a better ear for language.)

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Que? What? Huh?

Alas, Dear Gentle Reader(s), there is confusion in the air over at The New York Times.

Today’s issue of the NYTimes features an opinion article written by the witty Maureen Dowd titled “Should Michelle Cover Up?” and subtitled in the online email teaser, “Let's face it: The only bracing symbol of American strength right now is the image of Michelle Obama's sculpted biceps.”

Snark?  The combined email info blended into the reputation of Dowd for eviscerating the foibles of the political class could lead a reader to think, indeed, “Snap!”—if not “Snark!”

Ah, but then, DGR(s), reading the piece clarifies, perhaps, Dowd’s intent.  She quotes colleague David Brooks, ““She’s made her point.  Now she should put away Thunder and Lightning.”  (Brooks named her bicepts?!?)  And she re-tells of a Republican’s comment about Ms Obama’s dress at the recent speech to Congress, “Babe.”

Finally, Dowd further quotes Brooks, “Washington is sensually avoidant. The wonks here like brains. She should not be known for her physical presence, for one body part.”  Sometimes I think half the reason Obama ran for president is so Michelle would have a platform to show off her biceps.” 

My.  Bicepts are “sensual.”  And the inspirational presidency was spawned by a desire to show off those lusty bicepts.  Who knew?  (This information makes The Mikado’s erotic elbow seem tame.)

The question to ponder is whether Dowd was being snarky towards Ms Obama or to Mr Brooks.  Her sensuality or  his ungracious, though private—Dowd and Brooks were sharing a taxi at the time—thoughts.

Perhaps the answer could be found in the final lines of Dowd’s column:

Michelle has soared every day, expanding the job to show us what can be accomplished by a generous spirit, a confident nature and a well-disciplined body.

I also have no doubt she can talk cap-and-trade with ease and panache.

Hmmm.  Ball’s in your court, Davie boy.  (But you might start by not trusting a columnist who has a penchant for sharp wit.)

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Theology—When Logic and Clarity Lose

There is, Dear Gentle Reader(s), in The New York Times today, a wonderful example of how, when need runs up against religious mythology, logic and clarity get lost in the conflict.

In an article about the success of a bank in Michigan to serve Moslem customers, appears this paragraph:

To distill and simplify some complicated theological and financial concepts, the basis of Islamic finance is Shariah’s forbidding of “riba,” which can be variously translated as usury or interest. Mortgage alternatives, which are the most popular financial product for Islamic consumers in the United States, essentially add what would have been the monthly interest into the purchase price of a home.

So, essentially, in order to “comply” with the stricture against usury/interest, the bank’s president needed

On the religious side…to appoint a board of Shariah scholars to certify the mortgage alternatives as “halal,” or religiously permissible. On the secular flank, he put months into persuading both state banking officials and his own board of the new products’ legitimacy.

The “interest” doesn’t appear, one must conclude, in the monthly statement, but it exists in the payment.  As long as it isn’t called interest, it isn’t interest—except it is—and it’s OK to make the payment. 

One looks askance.

If mere humans aren’t fooled by this word-legerdemain, how much doubt can there be that an all-knowing Being would be fooled?

Alas.  Logic?  Clarity?  Victims of theology.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Un mot

Here, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is a little mental health break: 

Thus speaketh Upton Sinclair:

it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it

Just a little extrapolation and we have the rationale behind the past 28 years of middle class support for the Republican Party’s trickle up financial strategy.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Tale of Ruth

No, Dear Gentle Reader(s), this is not a tale from the Bible.  Unless, of course, you might be an avid fan of the Los Angeles Times.

Test your credulity with this lead-in: 

Ruth Madoff, wife of accused Ponzi scheme operator Bernie Madoff, is trying to persuade a judge that more than $62 million of her assets are "unrelated" to her husband's alleged $50-billion fraud.

How’d you do?

Yeah.  I, also.  Especially when one remembers that ruth means, compassion for the misery of someone else, and remorse.


Lotsa ruth in this story.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Giving Credit

Remember the snarkiness, Dear Gentle Reader(s), of the recent election cycle?  If you want a reminder, simply zip over to the Townhall muckroom.  Snarky is de rigueur, but occasionally someone slips up and writes a pithy headline.

Today the headline for Paul Jacob’s column is worth contemplating.  Remember the Maginot -- or, don't shoot the dog is worth remembering and applying to just about every situation in life.  The Maginot Line was supposed to prevent a German invasion into France.  It stretched all along the French-German border.  It might’ve worked, but we’ll never know.  German troops invaded France through Belgium.  They went around the northern end of the Line.  (For an interesting step into the history of the Maginot Line, go here, DGR(s).)

The lesson of the Maginot Line is not to let a single factor act as a barrier against a perceived threat.  And the lesson of Jacob’s title is we all have to have some sort of barking dog to alert us to danger.  Constant vigilance is necessary.

Of course the Muckroom doesn’t stray too far from its chosen path of snark.  There’s always some bit of inanity to counter the wisdom.  Kevin McCullough’s column carries the title Obama as Hitler.

What a nice, thoughtful bunch.  On occasion.

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