Friday, January 29, 2021

Five Things I'm Gonna Do This Year

 Get a new grill and use the heck out of it. My beloved natural gas grill still mostly works but is 21 years old not quite up to the food adventures I have planned. So I'm sort of set on a shiny Weber Summit E-470, which not only has the essential rotisserie but a nifty little side burner to keep my Hali'imalie General Store recipe grill sauce warm. Plenty of room for a couple of goat legs or a pile of ribs. 

Step up my tomato growing. Bigger containers for bigger plants and more fruit. Yep. 

Get back to Hawaii. We used to visit at least once a year but the pandemic forced us to cancel twice. Unacceptable. Once we're fully immunized we're checking in at the Napili Point Resort and running off to the Tin Roof, Sam Sato's and D.T. Fleming Beach. Indolence at its best. 

Hang Out at La Bodeguita del Medio. Assuming Dr. Fauci and President Joe finally kick Covid's butt I plan to return to my favorite seat at my favorite bar and torture the bartenders and servers with the compendium of bad jokes and boring anecdotes I've been crafting since indoor service was banned way back when. Oh, they will come to hate me, they truly will. 

Visit Portland more often. Given the boiling conflict fostered by mouth-breathing adherents of Antifa and the latest trending fascist boy's club I must help my baby brother fortify his apartment and lay in a supply of booze and tactical nuclear weapons. What fun. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Notary No More

 A few years ago I set myself up as a mobile notary public. Not much money to say the least but it got me out of the house and I met some interesting people - a few of them famous. I've still got about 18 months on my commission but I'm calling it quits now because of SARS-CoV-2 aka Covid-19 and the fact that too damn many people who want my services don't take it seriously. 

I live in Palo Alto where more than 40 percent of the residents hold graduate degrees of one kind or another. In some age brackets that figure approaches 65 percent. Similar numbers are found in the surrounding communities. I understand educational attainment doesn't necessarily equate with such personal factors as common sense but I thought it at least indicated an ability to absorb and rationally analyze information. It seems I was wrong. 

Even in multi-degreed Palo Alto it was common for people to greet me at their front door sans mask and don one only after we sat down next to  each other at a table. Upon my arrival at the home of a retired Stanford professor, he noted my mask and asked if I had any risk factors. "I'm old," I replied. "Not good enough," he said. "I'm asthmatic." "Good enough," he responded pulling a mask from his pocket. 

Then there was the small venture capital firm staffed by young hotshots. I arrived one day to find six of them in the open-plan office, none wearing a mask. As they were about 30 feet away and I had mine on, I let it pass. Unfortunately, the person signing the documents didn't put one on when he walked into the small office I was using.  And so on. 

I suppose I could have resolved to simply walk away from such situations but the benefits of the notary work didn't outweigh the potential negativity of repeatedly telling people to fuck off. 

Bill being Bill it was also guaranteed that at some point I would have blown up over the fact that these supposedly educated people were not only acting stupidly but putting my health and possibly my life at risk. I came close one day when I asked the two people at the table if they ever wore masks at work. "No," said the boss. "It's just the two of us in the office and we've both tested negative."

A few extra dollars was nice and it was even nicer to feel useful. But I don't need the money and the ego strokes don't justify dealing with people who act stupidly and treat me with disdain.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Five Things We Need To Cope With Covid-19

The Covid vaccines are here but it will be months before jabs are widely enough available to seriously affect the pandemic's spread. There remains plenty of time for innovators to step up and help us cope with its impact on our daily lives. Here are five needed now:

Compressed masks. You find a parking spot in the last row at the grocery store. Two-thirds of the way to the front door (of course it's raining) you realize you forgot to mask up. Rather the make the soggy slog back to your vehicle, you pop open a small capsule hanging by a chain from a zipper pull and out flies a rapidly decompressing single-use mask. 

Instant testing for consumers. Peel the adhesive QR code from its backing, place it on the inside of your forearm, wait five minutes and scan with the reader on your phone. Password-protected results are immediately available as is a rolling two-week database of past results. 

Takeaway food containers that actually keep their contents hot, or at least acceptably warm, for a specific amount of time. Any time requested beyond a minimum guaranteed by the restaurant costs on a sliding fee basis. 

Sound blocking for Zoom. Open this app while in a Zoom meeting and the only sound the others hear from your end will be your voice. 

No mask shaming app. This app connects the camera on your phone to a computer running a facial recognition program. When you snap a shot of some idiot without a mask it identifies the guilty party, and posts the photo to electronic billboards sited on major thoroughfares throughout the miscreant's home Zip Code. The photo stays visible for 10 seconds at a time and remains in rotation for 24 hours -- longer for repeat offenders. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Why Younger Leaders Get My Vote

Everyone has their list of priorities when it comes to deciding who will receive their vote. I've revised my list and my new No. 1 is age -- the younger one wins. 

Joe Biden is 78. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 80. "Moscow Mitch" McConnell runs the Senate at age 78 and Minority Leader Charles Schumer is 69. 

Thank goodness Kamala Harris is only 56. 

I do not completely discount life experience as valuable in a leader. A few miles on one's personal odometer teaches us what works and what doesn't in navigating through life. At best, experience helps us avoid making the same mistakes if not twice, then at least not too often. 

But studies show the older someone gets the harder it is for them to quickly absorb new information and reach a decision. Old solutions become the fallback when confronted with a new crisis or challenge. Memories naturally fade. In leaders, the desire to remain relevant can overtake the desire to do the right thing. 

Is there a better example of bad judgement by an older leader than Pelosi's plan to host a dinner party for 50 people while the latest wave of the pandemic washes over us? And I'll bet it wasn't 81-year-old Majority Leader Stenny Hoyer who talked her into canceling it. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Harris' successor in the Senate. Whoever he selects will work alongside Diane Feinstein who, at age 87, is the oldest sitting senator. Only five other senators were older than Feinstein when serving, including Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who rolled onto the floor at age 100. 


We will not benefit from the ideas and energy needed to deal with the issues of our century by electing, or sticking with, leaders likely to fail their next driver's license test. Experience is good, but has its limit in decision making. New must be the new new. 

Monday, November 02, 2020

Today's Food Should Be Eaten Tomorrow

I am mostly enjoying Jim Harrison's book of food essays, The Raw and the Cooked.  I modify my reaction for only a few reasons but I hold them to be important. 

First, Harrison eats so much I almost get bloated turning the page. (He justifies this by claiming a uniquely active metabolism and I won't call him a liar.) Harrison also has a penchant for tossing an entire head of garlic into a pot as readily as some cooks add a pinch of salt.

What really prevents me from fully embracing his attachment to food is his insistence on eating what he cooks immediately. 

Much of what Harrison cooks and what he declares he loves to eat would benefit from being set aside for a day or two to allow the ingredients to mate and spawn new flavors. Creative stews made with game and wild herbs are nicely prepared and then dished out for dinner that evening when a bit of patience would make them so much more delicious. At times I want to drag him off to a restaurant simply so the posole can be saved for and savored tomorrow. 

There are many dishes -- most of them familiar and popular -- that taste better when the ingredients hang out together for a time. Chili and lasagna insist on this. Meatloaf might takes great right out of the oven but can generate tears of gratitude when left untouched overnight. Split pea or lentil soup when cooked with a fatty ham hock? Indeed. Beef stew or pot roast braised with homemade broth. Pasta dishes involving cheeses. I even champion leftover pizza (even when eaten cold for breakfast as a hangover cure second only to menudo - which also should be left to mature after cooking.)

Really, Is there any food more appropriate to a menu featuring matured dishes than cassoulet? 

I am so enamored with letting food sit before eating that I created a fantasy restaurant named Leftovers. Most of the entrees would be offered as "today" and "yesterday." Some, like pizza, would also have a cold-hot option. Potatoes baked yesterday could be turned into mashed or twice-baked delights. Dairy could be fresh as hygiene and health are sort of important. 

Since many Leftovers offerings could be classified as comfort foods the clientele might trend toward homesick college freshmen and the depressed.  Still, if a customer leaves a restaurant feeling better than when she walked in, no one could deny success.

I plan to make some macaroni salad this week. A traditional (some might say banal) dish it offers a measure of creative freedom in selecting ingredients. Most important for me, though, is the fact it isn't finished until it is left in the refrigerator for hours or even a full day. 

I expect to be quite pleased. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Long, Long Life of Covid-19

As another Covid-19 tsunami washes over us we demand to know "When will this damn thing end?" Looking at the history of pandemics this corona virus and its spawn will undoubtedly live with us for a long, long time. 

The septicemic and bubonic plagues, two of the three that erased half of Europe's population in the 14th century still emerge about half a dozen times each year in the U.S. with about 7,000 reported globally. Given these once-dreaded Black Plagues are not transmitted between humans and are effectively treated with antibiotics they are unlikely to again ravage humanity. The 1957 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 1 million worldwide and the 1968 outbreak of the "Hong Kong" flu as many as 4 million. HIV-AIDS was first identified in 1983 and still infects about 1.7 million people  each year. There are effective treatments that reduce the individual viral counts to near zero. There is no protective vaccine. 

We can reasonably assume that a Covid-19 vaccine will eventually be developed and distributed widely enough to forestall a plague event like those in the 14th century. But vaccines only help the human immune system battle the virus. Vaccines do not wipe out the virus itself. And they certainly do nothing to ease the practical impacts of the pandemic or, more importantly, lessen lingering psychological pain. 

Much sooner than later there will be a financial reckoning and the bill will be difficult for most of us to understand. A study by two Harvard economists published in JAMA the cost will top $16 trillion in the U.S. alone. That is about 90 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. More concretely the paper pegs the cost to a family of four at $200,000 over the lifetimes of its members. The Congressional Budget Office estimates GDP growth will reach pre-pandemic levels only in the second half of 2022. 

Even before the Covid-19 outbreak was recognized as a global phenomenon academics launched a plethora of studies and surveys attempting to discern the psychological effects of the virus and disease as well as the measures taken to stymie its progress. Few found anything more than provided by a basic dose of common sense: people were more anxious, depressed and sleepless than normal; people with pre-existing mental issues exhibited higher incidences of these problems. Suggestions for relieving these symptoms of distress go no deeper than do the four words a physician says to a patient who wants to lose weight. 

There is no reason to believe that demonstrable progress in controlling Covid-19 will provide relief to an anxious populace. The abysmal failure of so many politicians to offer leadership and solutions has been well-publicized. Future pronouncements and initiatives will hit a hard of wall of skepticism. The inevitable exposure of how the wealthy will buy places at the head of inoculation lines will generate equal or greater levels of anger. 

Even if Covid-19 disappeared tomorrow it would continue to wreak havoc. This damn thing won't end for a long, long time. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Let's Use Shame To Fight Covid-19

Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep six feet apart, don't gather in groups. 

Pretty darn simple but some

among us just don't want to play by those rules and its been demonstrated over and over they are risking the health of others. 

What can be done? During the 1918 pandemic San Franciscans refusing to wear masks risked being hauled into special pandemic courts and slapped with heavy fines or some days in jail. Even though I rather like that idea, I realize such a move would be rather difficult in today's overly litigious society. Police have better things to do than develop writer's cramp handing out citations (although they should step up in egregious situations such as large parties.)

But there is shame, one of the most powerful tools we have to regulate behavior. Shame, what Sartre called the "immediate shudder which runs through me from head to foot" is fundamental and painful. Even the thought of the shame attached to a certain act is enough to deter someone from dancing down the wrong path.

Delivering shame is easy. Localized web sites and Youtube channels showing people flaunting the rules needed to fight Covid-19. Is your neighbor hosting 15 at a mid-summer dinner party? Grab a snap and post away, including the address. Don't know the names of the young jerks gathering at the beach or park? That's OK, just zoom in on the faces. This could be bigger than the Karen or Instant Karma vids so enjoyable to watch and actually have some impact on a serious issue. 

There's always a downside, right? Pretty minimal in this case. The infraction is evident in the video or photo which was taken in public. Malice can hardly be attached because the poster likely doesn't know the people involved in the group hug or kegger. Crazy people seeking revenge? Don't require registration to post. 

What fun. And for such a good cause. 


Saturday, August 08, 2020

Sorry About Your Loved One. Not.

        Dear Mr., Mrs, Ms., Mrx, Msx etc.:

I have no intention of visiting your grandparent/aunt/uncle/mother/father at [insert name of health care facility] to notarize their signature(s) on their estate documents/deed of trust/power of attorney or any other document that requires the imprint of a notary stamp for legal validation.

I offer two reasons for this blanket declaration, something I never would have made as little as six months ago. 

  The first involves hygiene. Health care facilities at the best of times are incubators of germs and viruses, some of which have yet to be discovered by science and many of which cause incurable diseases. But we are not living in the best of times. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused Covid-19 in about 19.4 million people worldwide, killing 700,000 of them. Hospitals and other such petri dishes, notably nursing homes, are prime breeding grounds for and distributors of the virus.  

My second reason is simpler. You want me to risk my health because you lack even a shred of foresight and common sense, qualities that would have prompted you to get the damn paperwork filled out and signed before the ingestion of who knows how many drugs became necessary to enable  your loved one to simply grasp a pen. Your failure to take these simple steps is as dumb and disrespectful to others as not wearing a mask and standing too close together when in public. 

I'm willing to bet you'll find someone with a notary commission willing to toddle over to [insert name of of health care facility] and complete the documents you ignored for so long but now deem so vital. I hope they charge you based on the level of risk they are running. Maybe that will teach you to think. For once. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

How President Biden Will Disappoint Me

I am sure President Joe Biden will disappointment me, 
likely several times in several ways. 

For one thing, he probably won't choose an attorney general who pledges to focus the Justice Department's considerable resources on putting Donald J. Trump and every one of his political appointees into super-max prisons.

Even with a Democrat majority in both houses of Congress, he likely won't propose a 99 percent tax on personal wealth of more than $1 billion and channel the money into a free college education for anyone who legitimately gains admission. 

No way will Biden tell Vladimir Putin to kiss his Irish butt. He probably will refrain from sharing the same sentiment with MBS, Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte and all the other fascist dictators making life difficult for so many people. No, I just don't see him doing that. 

I really doubt his plan to fight the spread of Covid-19 will include quarantining Florida, Texas, Arizona, every college fraternity and everyone who honestly believes that laws mandating the use of face masks is part of a plot to destroy all personal freedoms. 

Other Biden disappointments will probably include declining to nominate Barack Obama as secretary of state,  Tammy Duckworth as secretary of defense, and Alexander Vindman as national security advisor. 

I forgive President Biden for disappointing me in these matters and the others that arise during his time in office. Giving him a pass on his mistakes is easy because I know he will make them while trying to do what is reasonable and - for the most part - good for all of us. Given recent history, that's enough for me. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Beware The "Veteran" Journalist

The other day I read a description of someone that included a phrase I always dread in several ways: “veteran journalist.”

That two-word label undoubtedly was intended as a mark of respect or to lend credibility to something the journalist wrote or said. It implied expertise and knowledge based on length of service in a job or profession. Time equals wisdom, right?

I don’t think so. I take the view of UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman who wrote in Psychology Today that at some point in life, we stop learning and become "knowers."

Journalists are particularly vulnerable to this.

The longer a reporter covers politics the more often he or she references long-ago elections in the hope of providing context. It’s easy to reference the losing re-election efforts of one-term presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush when opining about Trump’s re-election campaign. But those defeats are irrelevant to the 2020 election because of drastically changed demographics, socio-political upheaval, and the demonstrable mental instability of the President himself.

And it’s not necessarily age the transition from learning to knowing and stasis. There are  journalists of all ages who take the easy path and reach back to irrelevant ideas and stats to enhance their alleged sagacity.

So, should we ignore the “knowers” because they haven’t moved forward in their learning? Not at all. There are any number of worthwhile journalistic traditions and standards that remain relevant today and must be passed on an reinforced by writers and editors who worked under them and absorbed their value. Some of the best interviewers are those with enough experience to know when to push, pull back or even walk out.

And, no, journalists don’t necessarily mentally check out when they hit a certain point in their career. Certainly some rely on their description as “veterans” to sustain the flow of paychecks. But others, who aren’t necessarily keeping up on every nuance of every minute change in society still have the smarts to understand what they can contribute and add to the knowledge of others. Those are the ones we should listen to.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Our 14th Century Solutions to Covid-19

When it comes to pandemics, we 21st century types aren’t coping with   Covid-19 much differently than the good folks of the 14th century during the Black Death.

I drew this conclusion after watching a lecture series on the Black Death produced by Great Courses and offered by Amazon Prime Video. I understand that is rather morbid viewing compared to the many mood-lifting offers available, but I’m glad I hunkered down to several hours of fascinating, if dark, history lessons.

The first thing I figured out was Covid-19 is pretty much a wimp pandemic with a death rate of just 1.4 percent of people infected. The influenza pandemic of 1918 infected 500 million people – a third of the world’s population – and killed 50 million.

The many 14th century waves of plague wiped out half the population in what we now know as Europe. And the population loss wasn't recovered for two centuries due to subsequent onslaughts, some lasting a decade.

More importantly, the documentation by lecturer Dorsey Armstrong, a professor of medieval literature at Purdue, shows that in some ways we’re not coping with viral Covid-19 much differently than the good people of the 14th century did their brutal infectious assaults.

Armstrong notes during the later ‘Black Death” years, some ports ordered incoming ships, crew sand goods to remain offshore for forty days before entry, hence the word quarantine. In some cities, everyone in an infected person’s family was required to remain in their home until they were proved healthy. People in public covered their faces with floral bouquets or cloth infused with spices to fend off “miasmic” odors thought to carry the plague. During peak infestations the number of dead bodies overwhelmed the resources available to dispose of them.

Armstrong makes clear medieval medicine was more mystic than scientific and nothing its guesswork offered prevented wave after wave of plague from killing millions of people. The greatest plague infestation of London ended in 1666 only when the ‘Great Fire’ ravaged the city and, consequently, its rat and flea populations. Even today there are no ‘cures’ for viral infections such as influenza or Covid-19 or any of their permutations. Yet, we desperately reach out for anything that even nips at the edge of the problem.

Prayer was no more effective during the 14th century than today. Then, the faithful asked why their spiritual leaders were dying in the same numbers as they if the priests are so close to God. Some scholars contend such widespread skepticism fed ideas that resulted in the Reformation. And, how many of us today have rolled our eyes when some pastor defies bans on church gatherings claiming god will out and, along with a couple dozen parishioners, comes down with Covid-19?

In the medieval world, science had no cure or prevention for the forms of plague that combined to create the Black Death. And science has no cure or prevention for Covid-19. People tried outlandish and irrational cures then and now. Sacrificing children? Drinking poisonous cleaning fluids?

The impact of the plagues that assailed the Western medieval world was profound. Many scholars have asserted that, absent the fundamental political, social and economic changes caused by the Black Death, the Renaissance might have been delayed by a century or more.

In 2020 we still possess few defense and no cures for viral diseases, including Covid-19. We’re suffering only the first global wave of the pandemic so we're focused on survival. We have little time or energy to imagine what the future will look like. I’m willing to wager, though, that the impact on every part of global society will be just as profound as in the medieval era and, because of modern technology, much faster to arrive.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Fashion Tip for Cops

Want a bit more rapport with people, be able to communicate on a quieter note and maybe even persuade them to cooperate without choking them unconscious?

Grow some hair and lose the wraparound shades.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Immunity for Cops Is The Problem

All the criticism and outright hatred form so many parts of society showered on cops just now means nothing to them. They are and will remain blind and deaf to aggrieved outsiders of any status.  There is no motivation for them to change their “us and them” attitude. None.

Cops don’t have to change because they are allowed by law to go about their jobs with virtually no fear of serious consequences regardless of how insulting, demeaning or violent their behavior.

Yes, cops can be charged with crimes just like the rest of us. With the spread of mobile phone cameras and social media, more are being held accountable for sometimes truly horrific acts, such as the deliberate murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Even then, they only receive a version of justice light. Floyd's murderer, Derek Chauvin, is actually eligible for a $50K annual pension when he turns 50.

But each day, cops go to work knowing that unless they are particularly stupid, they can go about the business of pushing people around, physically assaulting them and, even, ruining their lives for a couple of reasons. One is a nasty legal doctrine called qualified immunity.

Simply put, qualified immunity protects government officials acting in their assigned capacities from lawsuits unless their behavior is clearly illegal or unconstitutional. The notional concept behind this doctrine is to protect public employees from legal harassments simply for doing their jobs. In effect, it gives cops almost carte blanche to act as they will as long as they’re on the job.

Another brick in a protective wall surrounding bad cops is their unions. Organized unions go far beyond collective bargaining activities to make sure their members are treated fairly while on the job. This includes making sure members aren’t arbitrarily disciplined, including firing. Fair enough. But in the case of police unions this often means building roadblocks to even minor reforms. It also allows them to get involved in deciding who will govern police departments.

It would require a long and likely bitter fight to make changes in the areas of qualified immunity and the power of police unions. It would be wrong to eliminate all protections against unfair treatment and abuse of tort laws.

Unlike all other government employees, cops have life and death authority over everyone they meet and in all circumstances. Allowing them equally unique protections gives them the feeling of invulnerability that is too often displayed in racist and violent acts.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

A Palo Alto Kind of Curfew

Ah, Palo Alto, California. Home to Stanford University, Tesla, and a handful of billionaires .

To protect our homes (median price $3.1m per Zillow) and businesses from an onslaught of rioters and looters protesting the police murder of black men, city officials have imposed a curfew from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. This order, in effect until Friday the 13th, is entirely prospective as there have been scant protests and no violence whatsoever here marking the death of George Floyd or anyone else. 

Outrage at the curfew has poured forth, particularly as expressed in the Palo Alto Weekly newspaper Town Square forum. Many residents have gone bonkers over the notion they can be charged with a misdemeanor for walking their rescue dogs before bedtime. Others are taking a higher road and claiming the city is shredding the U.S. Constitution.

Regardless of what the cops and the mayor says, and what our outraged citizenry seems to think, the curfew is designed to keep people of color out of town on the premise that they are the primary instigators of violence. Absent African-Americans on our streets during this trying time, we can feel safe is the idea. It’s sort of a 21st Century version of sundown laws.

Reading this assertion would undoubtedly raise a collective OMG! from city leaders, followed by sputtering protestations about how they enforce the law evenly regardless of a miscreant’s ethnic or racial makeup.

But the numbers back me up.

The latest U.S. Census estimates say 60 percent of Palo Alto's 65,364 residents were White. Asians, at 32 percent of the population, represented the largest minority group. Hispanics logged in at 6 percent. African-Americans represented just 2 percent of the city’s makeup.

The largest number of African-Americans in the area live in East Palo Alto and represent 16 percent of that city’s population of 28,155.

Given those numbers any significant protest of Floyd’s murder would have to involve a large number of angry African-Americans from throughout the Bay Area. And that cannot sit well with the powers that be, particularly the cops.

So, Palo Alto’s leadership launched a pre-emptive curfew that will deter some protestors from visiting and give the cops an excuse to arrest even the most peaceful of those who do.

Simple, eh?

Friday, August 11, 2017

What Happened to Gun Control?

A CCW permit renewal notice from the Arizona Department of Public Safety sent me online to research the status of gun control efforts around the nation. The results were clear: Fergeddabout it.

In a way, the utter lack of any momentum behind tighter firearm controls is understandable. Our president believes it's a good idea to threaten war with a moody dictator who owns a nuclear arsenal. Republicans own the White House as well as Congress but still show no interest whatsoever in governing. Besides, the idea of Republicans bucking the NRA is the precise definition of a fanciful notion.

State lawmakers seem more focused on regulating where people can urinate than on public safety matters. Other than proposals  to protect killer cops.

Nor are the courts helping matters. California has a raft of new gun control was but the first major challenge to them was successful when a judge ruled  banning high-capacity magazines interfered with citizens' second amendment rights. When the judge's order is appealed I plan to file an amicus brief that simply says, "Huh?"

Five years ago I obtained a mail order concealed carry permit from Arizona that is honored by 30 other states. I did so to illustrate why efforts to regulate gun possession should focus on legislatures rather than Congress. That remains true.

But the impetus for change disappeared as soon as mass shootings faded from our memories and right wing (nuts) gained more power. People who care intensely about this issue must despair.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Thumbs Down on Growth in Palo Alto

Come on folks. We know in our heart of hearts the cause of so many woes faced by Palo Altans.  Developers need relentless growth to keep the profits flowing in and our government is more than happy to help.

They are hooked on it. Physical growth (up for the most part given our distinct boundaries.) Economic growth (still defined as jobs, jobs, jobs.) Population growth (we simply must house the people who work here.)

Never mind that convoluted efforts to enable relentless growth give only  lip service to solving such nasty side effects as horrific traffic, insane housing costs,  and let’s not even begin to talk about parking -- anywhere. Growth is the unquestioned goal and we must drive forward.

Maybe not.

Jobs? That means more office square footage so companies can boast they are headquartered in Palo Alto rather than Mountain View or (OMG) Redwood City. Commercial leases per square foot in some parts of Palo Alto are higher than those in Manhattan. It also means thousands more people fighting for services and cars jamming streets well away from their offices.

More housing for new tech and service workers? Zillow posits Palo Alto’s median home price at about $2.6 million. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,837, according to Rentjungle. People looking to live a few miles south in Mountain View face average one-bedroom rents $2,849. Anyone who could create a meaningful stock of affordable housing in such a market would deserve canonization. Not going to happen.

Increased property tax revenue? New construction means more property tax money flowing into city coffers. But a lot of that increase goes to servicing the new construction via infrastructure and other service.  

More money for the overall economy? Office workers spend a lot of money on lunch but at the end of the day they return to houses and apartments somewhere else.

Now is a good time and Palo Alto the right place to test the innate assumption that growth in and of itself is good.  “Yes, but it must be achieved in a way that takes into account…” is an unacceptable answer because there is no right way to cram more into Palo Alto’s borders without the consequence we’re already coping with. The tap should either be on or off. And that decision should be made by the citizens, not developers and their cronies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Plan for Trumpite Pushback

Let’s say a crazed Turmpite Republican is on the primary election ballot for whatever office in a GOP-majority district. In the Democratic column are a couple of benign nobodies everyone figures are just out for the free cookies at the candidate forums as they have no chance of winning.

Just for funs, let’s try this:

Somehow a non-Trumpite Republican is persuaded to run. She picks up support and votes from sane GOP voters.

Democrat voters re-register as Republicans and combine with the sane Republicans to defeat the Trumpite.

Re-registered Democrats switch back for the general election. Regardless of the outcome, there will be someone certified as rational in office.

There might be a few, tiny holes in this plan. But might not creative yet perfrectly legal tactics such as this be one tactic to resist the fascist juggernaut? A few victories might even emerge.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Trump's Plan for Russia

I have discovered Donald Trump's true motivation for seeking the presidency. He wants to take care of his pal, Vladimir Putin.

It's no secret Trump owes millions to Russian companies and oligarchs. His former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, made millions from the Russian government. Trump has spoken admiringly of Putin on more than one occasion. He even invited Russian hackers to infiltrate U.S. computers in an effort to uncover some of Hillary Clinton's supposedly lost emails. Two of his three wives (Ivana and Melania) are of slavic extraction and it's rumored number two, Marla Maples, likes borscht.

But what could Trump do for his bra Vlad as president? It's not exactly like the U.S. and Russia can hold hands underneath the diplomatic negotiating table when they get together.

Perhaps the most straightforward gesture would be to sell Alaska back to Putin and his oligarch chums. Adjusted for inflation, the break even price would be about $110 million but a president who wrote a book on the art of the deal likely would do much better.

Selling Alaska back to the Russians would have benefits beyond just the price. Alaska currently receives about $1.50 in federal money for every dollar it sends to Washington so savings would accrue as soon as contracts are signed. Russian vodka would cost less because importers would be hauling the stuff from distilleries in Juneau rather than Minsk.

Culturally, Americans and Canadians could more easily gain international travel experience. Absent two colleagues. U.S. senators could stretch out a bit more when debating and voting. And, to be blunt, Alaska's 710,000 residents would hardly be missed in a nation of 350 million.

Of course there would be drawbacks. Already outrageous prices for Bering Sea salmon and crab probably would jump. Any number of preppers and dog sled racers would flood into the Lower 48 once it became clear Alaska would be changing hands. Easing that burden is the fact Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have plenty of room.

In all, I see no real reasons for President The Donald not to sit down with President Putin right after the inauguration over a couple of drinks to start hammering out an agreement. After all, they are already buds.