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February 28, 2009


I'm taking Paul Harvey's death harder than others might, because to me he was not just some guy on the radio, but rather a part of my childhood. I remember hearing Harvey's voice over the airwaves from the time I was old enough to know anything. Back during the early 70's, before I even started school, my father would often drive home during his lunch hour to have lunch at home. I remember he would always, always tune the radio to Paul Harvey. Whenever I'd hear that amazingly distinctive voice on the air, I'd get excited because I knew my Dad was coming home.

In this way, Paul and my Dad were always intricately linked in my head as I grew up. When I went away to college, I'd always smile when I heard his broadcasts. By this time, Harvey was altogether a product of a different era. (Hell, that was probably even true in 1970 when I first heard him.) I wouldn't listen to him in front of my friends, because Harvey's frequent forays into the mawkishly sentimental would often prove embarrassing, but whenever I was alone, the sound of his voice comforted me and made me feel a bit closer to home.

When my own father passed away in July of 1999, Paul Harvey kept on going. He was like Old Faithful, or some other predictable, unstoppable force of nature. He was one of the very few true constants over the course of my life, still doing exactly the same schtick at noon every day as he did 35 years ago. It was truly amazing. And rather than finding it painful to listen to Paul Harvey after losing my Dad, I found it once again very familiar and comforting. It was good to know that some things never changed.

Ironically, it was just this past week that I had to run an errand on my lunch hour, and when I cranked the car I heard that familiar voice once again. Maybe there were a few more cracks in it than there were during my preschool days, but everything else -- the voice, the cadence, the idiosyncrasies -- were all exactly as I had remembered. I marveled at this, and his advanced age, and actually found myself wondering for how much longer this voice would continue to be a part of my life. Well, now I know.

Mr. Harvey, I'll miss you. Every time I'm ever in a car or near a radio at midday. And wherever you are, I know you're still going to be as busy as you ever were. But I do hope you'll find a spare moment to look up my Dad. He was a loyal listener and fan for many, many years. He'd be thrilled to shake your hand... and I think the two of you would like each other.

February 25, 2009

Byrd vs. the czars

Robert Byrd, the new Strom Thurmond (racist background, unspeakably ancient, and third(!) in line for the presidency) is taking President Obama to task for what he sees as an executive power grab -- namely the proliferation of "czars" to oversee White House policy.

I don't like czars much either, but the good thing about them is that they have very little actual power. Which is a good thing, since otherwise Byrd's accountability and checks and balances concerns would be valid. But then again, that doesn't make them very good "czars," does it? Czars, if I recall correctly, were autocratic tyrants, not toothless bureaucrats.

In this sense the new czars are preferable to the old, but who's bright idea was it to create a government position and call it a "czar" in the first place? In a better world, such a move would have been as unpopular as the creation of a "Health Care Despot," or a "Climate Change Inquisitor." Instead, it's become a trend. And why? Have any of them ever been successful at anything? Wasn't the first such position a "drug czar?" How well did that work out?

Obama's not the first president to appoint a "czar," but they do seem to be multiplying under this administration. Maybe I don't see the "czar" concept as quite the threat to democracy that Byrd does, but at the very least they are awfully silly, and I wish we could rethink the whole thing.

Is it just me?

...or is Wall Street totally missing all the "hope" from last night's quasi-SOTU?

February 23, 2009

Loretta Lynn had a song about this once

It was called "When the Tingle Becomes a Chill".

I can hardly believe what I'm watching on MSNBC right now. Chris Matthews is almost critical — no, not even almost, he's flat-out critical of President Obama on the economic front. He mentions an earlier conversation with CNBC's manic stock analyst Jim Cramer and a University of Maryland professor (Peter Morici?) knocking Obama for several economic decisions — that the stimulus bill needed more real infrastructure and less pork, that the housing bill isn't inspiring confidence and doesn't look like it will work, and that no one has faith in Tim Geithner's solution for the banks.

Check out my new album

It's my band's, actually -- San Pedro District. It's called "Map of Our Individuality." Cool cover art, huh?

You can't order this on Amazon yet, because it doesn't actually exist. But I have to say that K's album meme does such a good job that it makes me want to make this album. It's kinda neat how well it works. And to think of all those brain cells I wasted in college trying to come up with a great band name.

February 19, 2009

Green velvet cake

Since Valentine's Day had cleared the shelves of any and all red food coloring, I figured why not?

"Rescuing" dogs

Normally I wouldn't write this and risk embarrassing my neighbors, but this has happened to me twice during the past year, and I think it deserves a mention. Twice, recently, a neighbor of mine (different neighbors in both cases) approached me to talk about a stray dog they had found. In both cases, they thought the dog had belonged to someone, but since it didn't have a collar they couldn't locate the owner, so they called the police(!) and surrendered the dog to the local cops. And in both cases, these people actually thought they had done a good deed.

At first I was just flabbergasted that this would be their first instinct. But these were good people, who I'm sure thought they were doing the right thing. That's why I'm writing this. If there are two people in my neighborhood who made this same (well-meaning) mistake, then there must surely be many others out there. Please, people, think realistically for a minute about what will happen to the puppy after you hand him over to the cops. He is not going to hang around the police station, that's for sure.

The girl I spoke with this morning obviously had not given this matter much thought. When she learned that the police station couldn't keep them, she opined that perhaps the cops "released them" if they couldn't find an owner. Yeah, right. Sure they do. Please, people, I don't want to be mean here but use your brain for a minute, okay? What do you think happens to dogs that people call the cops on?

After talking with my neighbor this morning, I found that I couldn't get the dog off my mind all day at work. Against my better judgment, I finally called our town's police department to find out what happened to the dog. The lieutenant who answered the phone was very helpful, but the dog had, of course, already been shipped off to a "shelter." The cop gave me the number. I called.

The dog is in some high-kill shelter in Newark. I was prepared (again, against my better judgment) to go and bring it home with me, at least until such time as I could find it a proper home. I tried to describe the dog to the girl who answered the phone (at well as I could, since I'd never seen the dog myself, and only heard about it second hand.) She basically told me it would be impossible for her to locate the dog based on such a vague description, since they had over 300 animals on site at the time.

I pressed her for details about how much time the dog had left if no one claimed it. She was evasive, as these folks usually are, but said they were required by law to keep it for at least a week in case someone claimed it. "And after that?" I asked.

"Well, it all depends," she said.

"But technically, you could euthanize the dog on the eighth day?"

"Technically, but we probably wouldn't."

"You wouldn't?"

"Well, unless it was a pit bull."

Grrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!! Regular readers know how I feel about that.

Okay, I really don't want to prolong this soapboxing. I may be opinionated, but I really, really don't like telling other people what they should think or how they should behave. This time, however, I'll make an exception. If you find a stray dog and feel led to help it, then take it home and try to find the owner. If you're unwilling to do that, then at least do a tiny bit of research and take it to one of several great no-kill shelters in the area. And if you don't have the time or inclination to do that? Fine. It's not your problem. But then for Christ's sake, at least let the dog go about its business so that he stands a sporting chance, and you go about yours. Whatever you do, don't call the cops on it and then pat yourself on the back for doing a "rescue."

Okay. Enough. I'm done now.

A bad week for the Post's cartoonist

New York Post cartoonist Sean Delonas is having a bad week. First there was the typical breast-beating and garment-rending from the race hucksters because of this. You'd think we'd have more important things to worry about than this kind of Sharptonesque manufactured outrage. It's just stupid and I'm not even going to waste any time explaining why it's stupid because anyone with two brain cells knows it's stupid. (Actually I think Sharpton does have more than two brain cells, but ginning up this kind of damned nonsense is kind of his job, so he gets a pass.)

Anyway, rather more interesting to me was this story I found linked on Soobee's site, about how Delonas was busted recycling his own work.

It reminds me of a case I read about years ago, involving one of those hacks who wrote those trashy western novels. I guess he cranked out dozens a year. Anyway, an alert reader (like my Dad, who used to read anything with a cowboy in it) realized that two books he read shared many, many identical passages. The authors' names were different, but they were pseudonyms, as both were written by the same guy. There was a legal challenge, and the case was pretty interesting because nobody knew whether it was possible (or criminal) to plagiarize oneself. I never did hear how the case came out.

UPDATE: I think Frank has the best take on the "chimp" cartoon brouhaha.

The NY Post put up this cartoon, and the obvious implication is that the stimulus bill is so horrible it could have been written by a crazed, face-eating monkey. Now, that’s not entirely accurate, as a crazed, face-eating monkey does not have enough wits about it to use a national economic crisis to get pork projects for its district, but still I see the comparison.

Liberals, though, see something different though. Apparently, when they see a crazed, face-eating monkey--no matter the context -- the first thing they think of is the current president. Why? Because he’s black, and apparently liberals think black people are just a step away from being crazed, face-eating monkeys. It doesn’t matter that Barack Obama is Harvard educated and has been elected president of the most powerful nation on earth, liberals still associate him with a monkey and it is insulting and disgusting.

Frank's reasoning is just as solid as Delonas's liberal critics. The only difference is, they're serious when they say this kind of crap.

Holy crap!

A tax revolt in Hoboken, of all places. I know some of these people, and they're not easily given to taking to the streets. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere!

February 18, 2009

A question about the Obama Administration

When Obama first started assembling his cabinet (and even before) I had begun to buy into the whole "competence" argument. I was even suspecting that the handful of "Obamacons" I knew might have been right after all, be it by extraordinary insight or sheer luck. I supported Tim Geithner on the strength of his resume, tax cheating and all.

But now I'm beginning to have some serious questions, and if any of you Obama folks out there can help me out I'd be much obliged. For starters, let's take the stimulus bill. Obama has a stellar economic team of brilliant financial minds, and he lets the most important piece of defining legislation in a decade be crafted by... Nancy Pelosi? I mean seriously, what in holy hell was he thinking? This is the vaunted "judgment" I'm supposed to buy into?

Then when the financial markets respond predictably, Geithner goes out to give his big policy speech and it was absolutely terrifying. He actually made Robert Gibbs sound like Cicero. I never thought I'd miss Hank Paulson, ever. And I damn sure didn't think I'd miss him a month after he'd left! But here I am. Seriously, I know it's early but I'm starting to get a little anxious here. Anybody want to try to talk me down? Look, I know that any administration can be a bit rocky in the first few months, but... damn.

February 03, 2009

Quote of the Day Year (so far)

Andrew Stuttaford on Michael Phelps:

[T]his broken wreck of a man's failure to win any more than a pathetic fourteen Olympic gold medals (so far) is a terrifying warning of the horrific damage that cannabis can do to someone's health -- and a powerful reminder of just how sensible the drug laws really are.

This is getting silly

Okay, that's it. I don't want to see any US citizen prosecuted for tax evasion under an Obama Administration, ever. (All right, I've never enjoyed seeing citizens hauled in front of a tax court no matter who's president, but you know what I mean.)

Republicans cheat on their taxes too, of course, but without all the hypocrisy. It doesn't take much reading between the lines of the Republican message to get to the central, subliminal bit that says, "We need to keep every dime we can out of the filthy paws of those greedy IRS bastards!" But with Democrats it's a different story. There we have a preening Joe Biden talking about how "patriotic" it is to pay more in taxes, and Daschle himself moralizing about how "tax cheaters cheat us all." And yet this is how they behave in practice. And it's not only the three Obama nominees, either. There's also Charlie Rangel and Caroline Kennedy, all within the past month. Do any Democrats pay their taxes?

You know, I've read a lot of lefty bloggers who love to play amateur psychoanalyst for the conservatives they despise. Theocons oppose Proposition 8, for example, because they harbor repressed homosexual tendencies themselves, and are engaged in projection. Well maybe these bloggers are on to something. Maybe the reason that Democrats love taxes so damn much is to compensate for their own psychological pathologies that compel them to defraud the IRS at every opportunity.

Update: HT to Adam for the Daschle quote.

Update II: Maybe if Al Franken's senate bid doesn't work out, he can join the administration too.

Is there a lesson here?

Surprise, surprise, the big TARP bailout really hasn't helped free up lending.

The federal government has invested almost $200 billion in U.S. banks over the last three months to spark new lending to consumers and businesses.

So far, it hasn't worked. Lending has declined, and banks that got government money on average have reduced lending more sharply than banks that didn't.

Of course I don't expect our political leaders to admit this. Too many of them in both parties invested so much political capital in telling us how terribly terribly urgent it was to pass this thing immediately that they can't admit it didn't work as planned. But is it too much to ask that they don't rush headlong into the same folly -- the stimulus bill -- without proper due diligence once again? (My guess will be "yes.")

50 years ago today

It's hard to believe, isn't it? Even after half a century, it's still tough to think about it, so badly did it suck. Needless to say, I'm a pretty big fan. It's hard to overestimate the impact Buddy Holly had on our culture in such a very short amount of time.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. It's one of my favorite Buddy Holly references ever -- a great little song by Mac Davis called Texas in my Rearview Mirror. One thing I'll be doing to commemorate the occasion is reading the book Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede (would that it were so, huh?)

And of course I'll be listening to Buddy himself. Man, just listen to this and try to imagine what it must have been like back in 1958, hearing it for the first time.

Here's to Buddy.


Best Groundhog Day ever.