January 12, 2003
I was having a burger in a Thousand Oaks family restaurant last week. There were a father and pre-teen son at the next table, apparently a divorced fatherís visitation night. The father was talking on his cell phone the entire dinner, holding the telephone with his left hand while eating with his right. The kid wandered about, obviously bored. It was sad and pathetic. Later in the week, I was walking up Bankers Hill in San Diego, passing lots of homeless guys, some asking for money, some just wanting to be left alone. Looking at Californiaís amazing budget deficit, get used to the sad sights. The tiny Little Italy has more construction cranes than Las Vegas. The post-Victorian bungalows are being torn down for ugly condominiums, post-college dorms with garish paint jobs. Itís the urban renaissance. Get used to it.
The Consumer Electronics Show was a business boon for Southwest Airlines.
You could tell by the lines of 28-year-olds with computer bags who didnít
understand the intricate Southwest waiting protocol. One, directly
opposite me in a facing seat, didnít feel like buckling his seatbelt for
landing. Rather than make a fuss, I leveled my right heel directly
at his crotch, hoping for some serious turbulence. He never even
noticed. I donít think we were ever that dumb.
Our president unveiled his $674 billion economic stimulus package, over half being from long-term tax cuts on dividends (described as an aid for senior citizens). His critics were charged with fermenting class struggle. Stocks paying dividends immediately got more expensive. The Democrats squealed, as did the techno-barons of Silicon Valley. Some Republican senators even demurred softly. Paul OíNeil (remember him) doesnít think much of it. Mr. Cheney emerged from his hidey-hole to boost his boss. Senate leader Frist charged out on his training wheels to support his buddy George. A tax cut on dividends as economic stimulus? Who are they trying to fool? Seniors want to be able to afford medicine. The middle class has most of their stocks in tax-free accounts. The Walton family will do great, getting richer. So will senior citizen Jack Welch. I donít mind a tax cut. Just cap it at $25,000 of dividend income. I need a faster write-off of capital (stock) losses? Of course, the alternative minimum tax will kick in pretty fast to eat up the savings. States that tie their taxes to federal tax filing will get more screwed. Adding insult to injury, this would also make stocks a better investment than municipal bonds.
Remember the list of the administration insiders responsible for the tax cutting stimulus package? The one unknown name was Josh Bolton, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy. Heís another Goldman Sachs alum, a graduate of St. Albans, Princeton, and Stanford law. On the plus side, he is Jewish, wears a beard, owns two motorcycles, and likes to bowl.
Weíre up to maybe 150,000 more soldiers hanging out around Iraq. Elliot (the Hawk) Abramson points out that the US will be embarrassed if we donít invade. Iíd hate to be embarrassed. GM and Ford will be awfully upset if we blow gas prices up to $2.00. The rest of the airlines will have to file for bankruptcy. UN inspectors canít find a smoking gun. Ari Fleisher notes that a hidden gun has hidden smoke. Wha? We know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. We canít tell anyone why we know because we donít want to expose the three spies that we still control. We canít even (illegally) assassinate Saddam because we donít know where he is. There is no potential replacement government ready to take over. Even England is starting to urge us to slow down. This is a crisis? This is the major threat (since we canít find the al-Qaeda either) to the US homeland? What about North Korea?
The administration still doesnít consider North Korea a crisis situation. This is a country that either has nuclear warheads or can get a few soon. This is a country that has already sent a missile across Japan. This is a country that has withdrawn from all applicable nuclear test treaties (learning how to do that from us). This is a country whose people are starving. This is a country whose large army isnít starving. This is a country run by a god who grew up as the son-of-god, a godlet who considers himself the equal of any world leader. It looks like a crisis to me. So the (addled?) administration is playing hardball with North Korea. Korean diplomats have had to journey to New Mexico to talk to Gov. Elliot Richardson. Karl Rove better figure out a consistent policy pretty fast. Maybe he even ought to talk to Colin Powell.
Expect Cuba to enter the axis of evil soon. The administration
continues to support the exiled Cuban neo-fascists in Florida. An
anti-Castro, former aide to Jesse Helms, was named assistant secretary
of state for Latin America. Anti-Castro and pro-Contra Otto Reich
continues as special envoy for Western Hemisphere initiatives, a position
that doesnít require senate confirmation.
The search continues for bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and the anthrax man-person. A federal judge says it is perfectly legal to hold enemy combatants indefinitely no matter if they are US citizens because the military needs an indefinite time to interrogate prisoners. Theyíve had the guys in Guantanamo for a year. Will they still be able to give us the information to find Omar? The FBI finally gave up on the five Arab infiltrators from Canada. It turns out that an informant made up the story to get better treatment for himself. Maybe they could have sent the guy to Guantanamo to get interrogated by the army pros.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in DC is offering a new $3.25 drink, the Trent Latte. Itís separate but equal parts of coffee and milk. The customer can mix them together if he wishes. Letís see how Sen. Frist handles the Judge Pickering appointment. The judgeís support of a convicted cross-burner is a bit suspect. Iím sure he will apologize profusely and join his buddy Trent on the civil rights picket line. With Al Sharpton running for president, the civil rights lobby needs help in the trenches.
Remember the accounting board? It had its first meeting, sans a chairman. The board members will be making $452,000 plus perks. The chairman will get $560,000. The deputy director in charge of registration will only pull down $300,000. Accountants ought to be pretty good at registration already. Note that the SEC still hasnít gotten a budget increase. Congress still has to pass 11 of the 13 appropriations bills for this year.
Congress has a lot of work for this year. Republicans have to
use their new clout to screw the trial lawyers, outlaw abortions, open
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and sound like they
are for civil rights without actually alienating their southern base.
The Democrats have to sound like they actually have a clue. Many
will be running for president. Clueless.
Conservative, white, Republican George Ryan commuted 167 death sentences to life imprisonment shortly before leaving his Illinois governorís office. It could be conscience. It could be that he soon may be facing indictment for corruption and wants the prison population to be kind to him. It does make sense. A study showed that the entire system is ďarbitrary and capriciousĒ. Is public murder any better than private murder? The professional prosecutors are incensed. They ignore how many innocent men they have convicted. A Maryland study showed that blacks who kill whites are significantly more likely to get a death sentence than blacks who kill blacks or whites who kill anyone. Eight of the 13 currently on death row are black. All 13 were sentenced for killing whites even though 55% of all possible victims are not white.
Police didnít find the missing Modesto women when searching the Berkeley
Marina. They did find an anchor. It was not attached to a boat.
The anchor is being sent to Larry Ellison in New Zealand. Larryís
money is down 2-0 in the Vuitton Cup. Hell, send Larry the 49ers.
They donít have anything to do until next summer. Glendale, California
is going to enforce an 80-year-old law banning fences in front of houses.
It seems that a new generation of wealthy foreigners of questionable taste
are building seriously protected McMansions in the old guardís town.
You canít legislate good taste. Not in California.
The newest members of the European Community are still discrimination
against Gypsies. Silvio Berlusconiís government does not seem to
be discriminating against the Mafia. Mecca-Cola is moving into the
UK from France, capitalizing on anti-US feelings. We continue to
antagonize our Muslim allies by harassing and arresting their citizens.
Israel is a democracy. A poll shows that 61% of respondents donít
believe Ariel Sharonís explanation of a questionable loan and 43% think
he is corrupt. That should make for an interesting election.
Itís auto showtime. Celine Dion, DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman, wowed the troops. Cadillac showed potential production car with a 1000-hp, V-16 engine. Chrysler has a 500-hp, V-10 motorcycle. Jay Leno is talking up the $350,000 Maybach. Subaruís top Impreza gets 300-hp out of a 2.5 liter four. A Connecticut company is offering a $5,000 car wax. As Alfred E. Neuman continues to observe, ďWhat, me worry?Ē. Clever Arianna Huffington is starting a jihad against SUVís. The manufacturers donít agree, sounding a lot like the cigarette companies when the anti-smoking crusade started. Light trucks and SUVís are all they are making money on. Innovation? Not bloody likely. They never have before. Hello Kitty.
Steve Case has finally resigned as chairman of AOL Time Warner. He ran out of people to blame for his shaky $106.2 billion merger of AOL and Time Warner. Steve did manage to cash out of $700 million of his stock. Oh well. Easy come, easy go. There is a great reality program somewhere in that story.
An independent test showed that only one electric toothbrush was appreciable
better than manual brushing. It wasnít the Sonicare. It was
the old Oral-B rotating brush. The debut of reality series ďThe BacheloretteĒ
beat out ďThe West WingĒ by 3.4 million viewers last Wednesday. The
Harvard-Stanford hero of ďThe BachelorĒ is now a paid spokesman for Match.com,
an internet dating service. Where is H.L. Mencken now that we really
Pet Townshend only downloaded child porn to research a book. Yeah. Anna Nicole Smith was named worst dressed woman by Mr. Blackwell. Kelly Osbourne came in second. This is nothing to dwell on, like cleaning an open wound with maggots. Maurice Gibbs is dead at 53. He was in ďcritical but stableĒ condition when surprised by his death. The next question is, ďWhat does Ringo Starr do every day?Ē Kurt Cobain has done better since his 1994 death. Disco needs a death sentence, not to be commuted.
Clarence Thomas is reported to have been given a million dollar advance for his autobiography. Do we really want to hear about the trials and tribulations of being Clarence Thomas? A million bucks worth? Maybe the book can be made into a reality show. Thomasí role model, Antonin Scalia, thinks the courts have gone too far in the separation of church and state. His Catholic church needs serious tort reform to save itself, but thatís another story. The Muslim church doesnít count.
Isnít it time to bomb Libya yet? How about Chicago? Say goodnight Dick (Cheney).
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