Saturday, February 28, 2009

The State of the Black Union

Now on C-Span 1, live & in progress!

Supposedly moderated by Tavis Smiley (although I see him in the audience). Schedule (Viewable online):

C-SPAN Panel I Panel 1 - 8 a.m. PST / 11 a.m. EST C-SPAN Panel II - 1:30 p.m. PST / 4:30 p.m. EST;C-SPAN Blogger's Panel - 4:30 p.m. PST / 7:30 p.m. EST.

If you miss it, you can buy the book, Accountable: Making America As Good As Its Promise. (Click on it and I think you can see the faces of the Members of Congress!) This was edited by Tavis Smiley.

This has always been a great public conversation. And, I've always been a GR8 fan of this event.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Non-State of the Union Address

This would have been a State of the Union (SOTU) address had it been any other President delivering it.

Besides ending with "God Bless America", a formulaic SOTU is expected to include somewhere in its first ten minutes the phrase, "The state of the Union is strong." On the face of it, such an utterance would have been greeted with the same derision as John McCain's "The Fundamentals of our economy are strong" was last year. In view of the current fundamentals of our economy, our Union has seen better days. A McCain or a Bush would have put lipstick on it and pronounced our ailing body politic as hale and hearty. But President Obama is a non-prevaricating leader who tells it as it is, and that's what he did Tuesday night. Eloquently.

Some leaders on the other side don't like the truth to be told.
I don't think they can be reached.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

See Spot Run - A Dog Story

Lessons learned the only way they can be in the school of hard knocks.

Had a bad Sunday last weekend. In this moment of self-absorption, and encouraged by Mad Mike, I thought I would share.

I have already introduced my Doberwoman, Ballou, who is named after the outlaw character Cat Ballou Jane Fonda played in the 60's movie of the same name. It's appropriate - sort of - because Ballou is a 'blue' Doberman, not quite the stereotypical black and tan. Recent experiences may make it necessary for me to change her name to Balloustic Missile.

Ballou's age we think is about 13 months. Trophy Wife gave her to me us last June for my birthday. We must have thinking that, approaching our 40th anniversary, we needed something new, something young, something un-borrowed and something blue. Whatever. Ballou is now our 3rd Unit, which is our code reference when we don't want her to know we're talking about her. She's a keeper - as long as I am ambulant anyway.

I have always maintained that small dogs are not safe for seniors as they are quite capable of inadvertently tripping old coots like myself. (What killed my mother.) Plus, I know Dobies. I am a Dobie whisperer. By liberating Ballou from Dobie Rescue, she became our fourth Dobie, and as predicted, she rescued us (right back) from boredom. But Ballou is the first Dobie we acquired without seeing her develop from puppy infancy. There have been a number of surprises, consequently.

Among other things, Ballou is a sport. Make that a body-contact sport. Once in her first week with us, I was clipping Roses in the back yard so as to surprise Trophy Wife. As I was stepping carefully among the rose bushes, I suddenly felt my left ankle lifted well above its normal trajectory for such tasks. In a nano-second I was airborne. As a matter of fact, there was enough 'hang time' for me to cry out, "Oh-Shit," before landing on my back Trophy Wife rushed out to see what had provoked my outburst to find me prone among the large rocks in the rose garden. Ballou appeared - to her - guiltily aware of her misdeed. That was the first and last time Ballou has decked me one my home field.

You can't own large dogs and not daily run them off leash, in my opinion. Such has been my practice. The younger they are the more essential it is for them to run their asses off and get the shit knocked out of them by other dogs. Otherwise, your home will suffer.

One of the reasons I retired here is that the area has a number of large and varied parks where unleashed dogs are permitted. After considerable hesitancy and trepidation born from her constant barking and snarling at pedestrian passers-by in her first weeks with us, I introduced Ballou to the bark parks. To my great relief and surprise this athletic acrobat turned out not to be vicious or malicious when unleashed.

However, Ballou is extremely sadistic. Her off-leash tactic is to search out likely canine victims, close to her size and age, give them the most snarky look she can muster, and provoke them into chase. What then happens is that the other dog(s) pursuit totally wears them out. She maintains at least a length and a half ahead of them. Like any guerilla fighter in broken ground which she knows better than the back of my hand, she can pull a complete disappearance off when circumstances warrant it. When rarely cornered, Ballou can easily vault over her pursuing posse. She owns the terrain of Douglas preserve as if it were her own back yard. Seeming impenetrable thickets created by fallen trees are encircled by cinder tracks produced by these pursuits. Other dog owners know Ballou as the fastest dog in the park, nicknamed the Blue Streak.

However, there's a dark side of all of this.

One Sunday afternoon last year I was approaching a point in the park where the trail narrows. Off to the right, there's a 100 yard perpendicular drop off to the Pacific Ocean. The trail is constricted by three or four sturdy saplings. My technique is usually to grab on to one of these as I progress the ten yards or so of vertigo.

Well, on this afternoon in question, I approached this bottleneck knowing that some dog or another was pursuing Ballou. I heard from behind the rapido drum beat of stampeding hounds. Seeing a sturdy trunk within grasp slightly to my front and to the left, I stepped quickly up to get behind it. I never made it.

Instead I was hoisted in the air much more violently and painfully than in my rose garden experience. Trophy Wife was a hundred yards behind me and she will tell you I appeared to be in 'levitation'. Happily, I surprised both of us by getting to my feet before she reached me. The learning, I concluded, was that there was no wisdom in getting close to an obstacle when Ballou was in flight, because she would always try to split the difference.

But I had more to learn. Part of Ballou's snarky behavior is to squat down on her belly in a predatory crouch, ready to spring. The learning in this scenario is that she is more than likely to spring off to the left or right than forward. This was driven home to me on another Sunday when I was walking beside her on the way out of the park, preparing to re-attach her leash. Ballou crouched with inches of my left ankle. After provoking the 'other dog', she hit me in my left knee from the left side without warning. There was no opportunity to flex my legs or 'unlock' my knees.

I thought I was finished. I had replaced both knees two years ago and thoughts of having to drive back to L.A. Centinella for reparative surgery flashed through my mind. I was stiff the next morning but quickly recovered that week. The learning was never to re-leash Ballou in the proximity of other unleashed dogs.

Then, last Sunday, I was struck by a Balloustic Missile.

Beneath our regular walk on the Douglas preserve is Hendry's Beach. (Reader Utah Savage knows this beach.) I try to take Ballou there at least once a weekend when we have a little more time. She loves the beach scene with the easy running, splashing other dogs it affords. This beach is narrow, bounded on the inland side by the cliffs of the Douglas Preserve alluded to above. It is an obstacle-strewn beach with huge boulders and fallen trees. At high tide, it is extremely narrow. As I recall, the tide was out last Sunday. A quarter of the way through our hour walk I looked up. Ballou was racing towards me, pursued by a Ridgeback. To my immediate right was a low boulder, embedded in the sand like half of a dinosaur egg. It was no more than two feet high. There was no time to move. I bent both knees and braced for whatever, expecting Ballou to easily vault to granite egg. (The day before in the Preserve above the cliffs, similarly pursued, Ballou cleared a 4-foot snow fence with 10 inches to spare and enough hang time to sink an underhanded lay-up.) This Sunday, however, Ballou changed course away from the egg-shaped boulder and crashed into my left knee. And I mean crashed. Imagine being struck by a fur-covered object of 70 pounds traveling 10-15 miles an hour. I was down in the surf line, writhing in pain. People rushed to my assistance.

The next morning and for days after I needed a cane just to get up, walk to the car, walk from the car to the office and back. I returned with Ballou to the Preserve on Tuesday, but with a cane. On Wednesday morning, we were leaving the park with Ballou back on leash. Another large dog owner came through the gate, looked this old fart with a cane in one hand and a young, leashed Doberwoman in the other, and elected to unleash her own monster. The result unfolded more quickly than it takes the reader to finish this sentence. Ballou struck me again in the same left knee - from the side - and I was on my back, writhing in the mud.

I have no alternative than to walk an hour or so daily with my Balloustic Missile. Any large dog requires that exercise. And I do, too. I now carry my cane but not for support. For protection. This morning's walk found Ballou in full flight in my direction. I jammed my cane hard into the ground in front of my left knee and leaned hard into it. The cane received a glancing blow! My knee survived unscathed.

Is that the learning? Maybe.

Maybe I needs to be looking to replace this varnished stick with a stainless steel cane. A cattle prod? Umbrella with a hair trigger? Ski poles? Until I find a solution, I just gotta stay on my feet.

And off Hendry's Beach.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Did You Know that Only Two First Ladies Have Ever Made the Cover of Vogue?

Well, I never knew it!

And I just don't know how to explain what factors in decisions like this. . . .

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Blogger's Anti-Spam Robots Have Destroyed One of My Sites

Apparently they have been concerned about Spam coming from blog sites.

My site is not one of them. I have always been a good Netizen!

I have only used it to mirror my main site, to prepare and format articles which I ultimately publish here.

There is no reason for this outrage! Google will not respond to my emailed complaints.

I therefore and hereby warn all my fellow bloggers that, under BLOGGER, they continue to blog only under the capricious and lead-footed boots of this behemoth.

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Year Revolutions

Ted Rall IMO, is a modest - at best - cartoonist. But as a political observer, he gets very high marks from me. I have been sitting on his column, Only One Solution: Soak the Rich and Corporations, for many days - wondering why I couldn't have written something half as good as he has. But, rather than trying to re-invent his wheels, I've decided to just give them my spin.

Here's what Rall says:
A moratorium on housing foreclosures and evictions is a good idea. So is making the tax code more progressive. . . . .the rapidly metastasizing disease that threatens to kill the U.S. economy [is] income inequality.

. . . . . Tax returns give only a partial picture of a nation whose riches have been aggregated in the hands of a tiny elite. The Internal Revenue Service captures only about 70 percent of business and investment income....
That means the other 30% goes unreported.
So actual income inequality is bigger than IRS data indicates . . . .The wealthiest one percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005.

. . . . . What if we played Karl Marx and left that one percent of the population (people who earn over $350,000 a year) with their fair share--one percent of national income? If we divided the rest of the loot equally, everyone else--99 percent--would get a 20.2 percent pay raise . . . .

Due to wage inequality, the average worker earns 40 percent more than the median. Close the gap, and two-thirds of Americans get a raise. One-third gets a cut. But only a small group, the top five or ten percent, would feel significantly pinched. Most of the third wouldn't lose much. And everyone would benefit from the increased economic activity that would result from equal income distribution . . . . . Call it trickle-up economics.
The under examined myth in this country of ours is that salary is the biggest motivation for creative people. It's especially unexamined by the Reich wing because for the richest of the rich, satisfaction of greed is purpose for life.
After-tax 2007 profits for U.S. corporations totaled $1.8 trillion, up 10 percent since 2001. (Bear in mind: this figure doesn't include CEO salaries, capital reinvestments, and the acquisition price of other corporations.) The effective average corporate tax rate in the U.S. is about 13 percent--one of the lowest in the industrialized world. If we were to double the effective tax rate to 26 percent, the U.S. would remain a tax haven compared to Germany and other major European countries.

Let's say the IRS took that extra 13 percent corporate profits tax and cut a check to the American people. Why not? Without us, the U.S. consumer, these companies wouldn't be in business. In 2007, every worker in the U.S. would have gotten a check for $12,000. That's a lot of xBoxes, not to mention mortgage payments.
Ted's right.

It's as old as the hills and Henry Ford. Remember, Ford was the tycoon who wanted to ensure labor would make enough salary in order to be consumers. What free enterprise really needs is a market. Markets need disposable incomes. It's not the prospect of tax breaks that spurs investment, it's the prospect that good and services will be purchased when and if they are produced. It's not saving the greedy billionaires from their just taxes. It's the palpable prospect of buyers, consumers and customers that motivate entrepreneurs to create and build businesses. Tax breaks for the wealthy is the wrong way to go. Dead wrong.

Where am I wrong on this?