Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The State of the Union cotillion . . .

A little bit ago I heard Ex-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi say in an interview that the Republicans should take their party back from all the extremists who are ruining it for everybody. Said extremists hate government, hate science, and hate Obama. So Republicans should take their party back. She probably should have thrown in "hate women" and it would have improved the rhythm of her rhetoric without in any way blotting the essential silliness of the statement, nor added any element of truthfulness to it. So I'm going to assume she left women out of the hate equation inadvertently, and give her credit for it

And by the way, the "Ex" part of Pelosi's title ought to suggest to her what the mood of the electorate is, seeing as how the Democrats remain the minority party in the House even after President Obama's re-election. But maybe she missed that.

Anyhow, she was being interviewed on the eve of the Presidential State of the Union report. Hey, he could have just put it in writing and had it delivered to Congress, as was done for many years. But if he had done that, he would have deprived all of our political masters of the satisfaction to be gained by assembling the entirety of government, legislative, executive, judicial, together in one large room for them to congratulate themselves and preen before television cameras as the President pranced into room, hyped up in knowledge that these weighty political lords and barons intended to stand and applaud each presidential utterance, burp, and pose.

Maybe Mrs. Pelosi is right in a way. I don't myself consider myself a Republican and haven't done so for easy fifteen years. But I think the Republicans would certainly benefit by taking their party back, as Pelosi suggests. I just don't think the people running the Party are all that wrapped up in hating government, science, women, and Obama.

I know I don't hate government, being of Social Security age, and I don't hate science, and I'm really sure I don't hate women. I've never met anybody who plain hated government in general, even if they hated this particular government in this moment. I've never met anybody who hated science, even if they thought certain scientists were roaring, raging, flaming, gaping assholes. I've met people who hated women but they didn't start out that way. It kinda crept up on them. And I don't think all that many, if any, people hate Obama. Despise him, sure. Loathe him, maybe. Fear him, probably. But not hate. Hey, nobody has even tried to shoot him yet, and remember, Reagan got shot, Kennedy, Jack and Bobbie, got shot. There's precedent, in other words, and when somebody shoots, that's hate.

For that matter maybe the Democrats should try to take their party back from the redistributers, and the regulators, and the race pimps, and the cronies, and the Marxists, and all the fellow-traveling mouthbreathers infected with excessive self-esteem earned by claiming to care about social issues and sciency stuff, and who demonstrate the same by attending the required demonstrations and sporting caring bumper stickers, many of which nearly make sense but even if they don't, entitle the bearer to a warm, smug feeling of superiority.

On the other hand, why should Republicans, in particular, bother? They're pretty much against most of the stuff President Obama wants to do to the country, good and hard, but it really doesn't matter who is in charge of the party. Why? President Obama has stated that he intends to go it alone, without lawful legislation of Congress, and with or without the approval, advice and consent of Congress. He is going to rule by executive order and doesn't need any stinkin' legal restrictions imposed on him by so-called constitutional limitations. It doesn't matter what the Republicans and Democrats in Congress do, or don't do.

Deadlocked? Who cares? Not President Obama? Doesn't need 'em.

It occurs to me that President Obama's stated intention to institute his agenda by bypassing constitutional procedures makes the votes of Congressmen, Republican and Democrat alike, meaningless, and in turn, makes the votes of the citizens who elected Congressmen to represent them in Congress, likewise, meaningless. We are, essentially, deprived of legislative representation when the executive legislates through executive order.

In that connection, I seem to recall that some years ago a group of upset Americans gathered together one night in Boston to communicate objection to being deprived of effective representation in their legislature of the time -- Parliament.

Just a stray thought, probably means nothing.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

State of the Union address . . . Snore! . . .

Blah blah, income equality . . . All Americans . . . War on women . . . The environment . . . Fair share . . . Protecting privacy . . .

Any surprises are sure to be inadvertent and every solution to every problem, real, imagined, or invented, will be at least 75 years stale and a proven failure, at best, and lethal, at worst.

But I'd watch it if there were any chance he'd be heckled. "A consummation devoutly to be wished."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Really? Give me a break . . .

Those who know me know I'm really into golf. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm interested in pro golf tournaments. I like to watch the LPGA because the ladies frequently show better fundamentals than the men, and I can learn from that, and I have a better chance of driving the ball as far as the women.

This summer the ladies are having a major event at Pinehurst a week after the PGA will have a tournament on the exact same course. That should really be interesting, to see what the women can do in comparison to the men.

But I heard that some of the ladies are worried that the course will be beat up from the men playing on it just a week before.

Give me a break. It's Pinehurst for heavens sake, and you can bet your grandmother that the course will have pretty much nothing but maintenance for the intervening few days between the tournaments. No golf course is perfect but tournament golf course preparation is a far cry from what most of us see -- even club golfers.

And public courses? The ladies are worried about three and four day old divots? You go to public courses and you'll even find divots on the driving tees where some poor hacker has taken a divot with his driver, four inches behind the ball and two inches deep -- after having done the same thing with a practice swing. Then he does it again, fifteen yards ahead, because that's as far as the ball dribbled after he hacked up the tee box. Then, eventually, he slams his putter into the green leaving a small trench, because he missed his fourth putt that was only eight feet away from the hole.

So what do everyday golfers do in such conditions? Play it as it lies and accept what the course gives you. That's what golf asks.

Give me a break. Top pro golfers are a coddled bunch. Watch one of 'em throw a small tantrum because a camera clicked or a mosquito farted in the next county, as he was making a backswing. Compare that to competitive gymnastics where a little fifteen year old girl will do a cartwheel into a front flip and land in perfect balance with her little feet on a four inch balance beam, all while music is playing elsewhere in the gym for floor exercises while the spectators are cheering and hooting for some other little girl in a different location flying around the uneven parallel bars. And pro golfers want silence as they hit a ball.

No golfer ever risked a concussion or broken collarbone or a shredded knee while competing.

Well, one thing. Pro golfers, men and women, don't get paid for just showing up. Sure, they live a coddled life compared to most of us, but their comfort is nothing to pro basketball players, who get a million or two for dogging it up and down the court, whether the team wins or loses, after having been exempted from all the normal expectations and rules of civilized human social behavior from the age of fourteen on, because they reached the height of six foot three in the eighth grade.

Give me a break.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Profiles in Courage, updated . . .

Senator Diane Feinstein complains that while there was a protest going on around her house, there was a drone, spying on her through her window. Turns out that it wasn't a drone; it was a little $50.00 pink toy helicopter.

This woman is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, so, of course, she knows all about drones. She is also just as smart about guns.

California has a lot to answer for.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christie's bridge . . .

I guess Christie's boys figured that if it's okay to shut down federal parks and monuments in political retaliation for the federal budget sequester, it should be okay to shut down a bridge for political repairs. Haven't they been paying attention to the media for the last twenty years?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Portland, the well-planned, model . . .

I've lived in Portland, now, for a little over twenty years. When I go "back east" to visit friends and family and generally socialize in the area, I frequently encounter a bewildering admiration for the wonderful way Portland manages city life for its inmates citizens. Portland is a model for desired solutions to modern urban issues.

So I'm told.

Well, I guess if you tilt your head to the left and look at it "this way," Portland is a model -- that is, it's a model if your model is meant as a teaching device for how blithering elected officials can blissfully spend public funds in great gobs and handfuls on personally much loved projects, without even asking for voter approval, all because they have in unerring belief in their ability to know what is the right thing. When you know what is right you need not test your notions, or consider possible adverse consequences, or compare cost to benefit, or even check your arithmetic. And our politicians are the kind of politicians who just know.

Of course, if you tilt your head to the other side, and look at it "this way," well, you'll just get dizzy.

For example, our water bureau just agreed to sell a house for a little under $400,000. It was probably a good idea to get rid of the house, and the money is going to good use, to offset a bunch of expenses. Where did they get the house? Well, a few years back some elected disaster decided that the water bureau should build a demonstration house, to show how modern methods could save water, 'n stuff. The budgeted cost to build the house was predicted to be about $250,000. So, they did it. Hey, showing people how to save water is a righteous thing to do!

The house they built was relatively modest, three bedrooms and two baths, and a little over 2000 square feet in living area. No biggie, right?

Except, they didn't get the needed approval of the City Council. They just went ahead. And, ratepayer funds were spent to build the house, in spite of the fact that the law says that ratepayer receipts are to be spent to supply water, only, not houses. Oh, and they spent a little more than $900,000 to build the damn thing. For those of you who recently graduated with a liberal arts degree, the arithmetic is $900,000 cost, less $400,000 sales price, equals $500,000, (that's a half a million dollars if zeros confuse you) flushed down the drain, for an unauthorized project paid for illegally, at a cost three times what is should have been, if the numbers they used to justify the thing was more than mere mumblings in their ears by dream unicorns.

Was anybody indicted? Well, some people in less enlightened cities might be a little perturbed off if their elected officials behaved in this way, but this is Portland and we expect this sort of thing from our political betters because we are a model for how other cities could and should do things. Portland is the city that works. It says so on city properties.

What's the proof of that bold statement? Well, for one thing, we have a tram. It goes from down there, to up there, despite complaints of homeowners who were concerned about the tram, a gondola on wires, pulled over their house. And then, a big pedestrian bridge was built, so as to enable pedestrians to get to the tram from up here so they could go down there, to get on the tram to go up there. Evidently insufficient pedestrians were using the tram because they didn't want to dodge traffic to get to the tram. But the tram is a pleasant way to go and take a ride from down there to up there if you need something to do with the family some afternoon, because, hey, we have a tram.

For another instance, we have bicycles. On the whole, bicyclists and bicycles are great. Oh, there's a few bicyclists around for whom bicycling is a divine calling, and a few more who bike in protest of capitalism, but mostly, bicycles are great. Who wouldn't enjoy seeing cyclists in elastic pants peddling their legs like crazy just to give their ass a ride, said ass being above the level of their ears? Yeah, mostly, bikes are great.

It's politics that suck. Portland politicians worship and revere bicycles, so much so that they are now converting four lane direct routes into two lane direct routes, so as to give bikes an easier commute. Because a ratio of seventy-five cars for every two bikes means -- we need more bikes. Oh, and because cars are an anachronism, anyhow, in a hip city like Portland.

Why would anachronistic cars be required, when we have a splendid transit system, including choo choos? Because there is nothing anachronistic about trains, a 19th century gamechanger, here, now in the 21st century. We like trains; we can ride for free, if we don't get caught. And our political masters like trains, so much so that they are spending public funds to build light rail into places which have emphatically said they don't want Portland light rail. Not that those places know what's good for them, being merely voters. Of course, adding trains to places where they are unwanted is not an easy task. Bridges must be built, roads must the closed and re-routed, and properties must be confiscated, because that's what us modern, progressive, hip cities like us, do.

Nevertheless, Portland traffic is generally managed creatively.

I remember an old three stooges movie where the stooges were plumbers. One of 'em was was trying to fix a leak, and kept making pipe connection after pipe connection, chasing the leak around, until he was completely and creatively caged in his own pipes. It's that's kind of creativity I mean. For example, the northbound exit on I-5 to the Ross Island bridge cannot be described accurately to anybody who hasn't been there. It's mighty stooge-worthy.

Something else that Portland is good at is managing urban sprawl, using an "urban growth boundary." The idea is to forbid building any more city beyond arbitrary boundaries under penalty of law, thus preventing the city from becoming "too big, and too spread out, like L.A." Of course, L.A. has more people in it than the entire state of Oregon, which has lots of unused space, but Portlanders want that unused space to remain unused, so that they can "enjoy nature," which means they like to go look at it from time to time. Accordingly, the city is increasing the population density, shrinking building lot size and discouraging yards and garages which take up space where people could and should be living, so as to preserve us from urban sprawl. Why would somebody need a car in a garage when you have public transportation, like light rail and a tram?

Why do we like urban population density? Probably because it reminds some city planner of the time when he still had hair, the summer he spent in Amsterdam between junior and senior year, with it's little streets, small apartments, bicycles, pot, and prostitutes with charming accents.

I can see a possible vision of the future of Portland, now. There we all are, wearing our well-planned proletarian grey-blue clothing, all trudging in single file on our well-planned way to the transit stations to report to our allotted tasks to earn our right to a 6 by 9 cubby and three bowls of food a day at the community center, because from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.

So, yeah. Take a look at how we do things here. Portland is a model city.

As was a not so well-planned Detroit. Once.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Ah, the wonders of corporate phone services for we, the little people . . .

Automated answering systems -- what moron thought these were a good idea?

Your call is important to us and we look forward to helping you. Please stay on the line for the next available representative. Current wait time -- forty minutes.

What that means is they don't want to hire enough people to answer the phone when it rings, because they may be paying for representatives to sit around doing nothing while waiting for the phone to ring. They are managing time efficiently, right?

I'm sure some business school moron thought this was a good idea. And I'm sure another one thought that as long as we were keeping people on the line, they might as well be listening to commercials praising the company for all the wonderful things they are doing for you.

Meanwhile, the customers' time is spent waiting around on hold when their time is just as valuable to them. is not a matter of any great importance to the company.

We, the customers, hear the message loud and clear. The words, "customer service," is code for something quite contrary.

Wonder if any of those business school morons ever thought to ask the customer, when they finally got a chance to talk to a representative, if they approved of the phone systems. Betcha they'd got a lot of no votes. And wonder if any of those business school morons thought to get a count of the number of hang-ups they get from people put on hold? Those are hell, no votes.

Not that anyone cares.